cover image The Moon That Turns You Back

The Moon That Turns You Back

Hala Alyan. Ecco, $17.99 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-06-331747-5

The formally inventive and devastatingly evocative latest from Alyan (The Twenty-Ninth Year) reckons with grief, displacement, and enduring kinship. From Beirut to the U.S. to Jerusalem to Kuwait, Alyan draws from her experience as a Palestinian American to examine where one’s home is under occupation and forced displacement. An interaction with an Israeli soldier in Jerusalem, in which her passport is withheld until she agrees to take her hair down, is referenced repeatedly, evoking the helplessness of the occupied. Alyan’s ghazals are the jewels of the collection. In “Fatima :: Dust Ghazal,” the speaker has married “Salim with the long neck,” and in the process “became wife to three countries.” There’s plenty of joy—and defiance—in these pages. In “Tonight I’ll Dream of Nadia,” the speaker experiences the pleasure of being with her family when a loved one is in the hospital on a ventilator. At the poem’s end, she is in a nightclub: “I am/ everyone’s daughter, everyone’s wife, I muscle/ through the crowd to dance, I feel her hand in/ my hair as the machine breathes for us both.” These powerful poems linger long in the mind. (Mar.)