Three Poems – Tariq Luthun


I have seen death 
look like me: bones sprawled
out somewhere between 
hazel-coded grains along 
the beach of the red 
sea’s shore—a palm opened and 
a palm closed— body thick as a fist 
in waning rose-crimson tides.

still, I’ve never known
a law to rewind a bullet
or a bomb, to unwind
a spine too busy wrapped
around grief. and I am told 
how we must learn to speak
with it’s tongue: too mired
        in the end.
	do you read?
	have you heard? 
        I have seen it
all before: the still-growing husk
of mankind’s tomorrow
looks to make itself 
a name. I watch men
who don’t—and do— look like me 
print its face with my mothers’
graves. I’m incoherent

at this point, but I saw
a boy that could have become
me wash up on a shore. 
along another, I watched all 
the boys lose a match. I guess,
I’m not putting enough blame

on the child. 
        Don’t get me
wrong. I’m just
wondering: can a boy
        find death, and not
        come bringing it
home to show everyone

what he’s found


If every day above
ground is blessed,
then when do we sip
a wine that does
not flow from the hungry
crown of our bellies?

Where does this toothless
vineyard lie? The one I can
shake free from, free
of the quake that lets
loose upon what remains
of this curious flesh. I crawl out

of this cage, elbows bloodied &
so fine,
so aged with the sky’s 
knees in my back. My throat
flutters, loosens to make space
like a prison emptying its cells
into the earth below 
the earth. & here 

I am, miles away & leagues
above, watching my cousins drown 
in someone else's comfort;
another's desire 
for luxury. & here I am, I stay
cursed to watch the lexicon 
grow & grow & grow 

	& I found god
in every throne I lust,
	I shook
god in every breath I 
hushed. & whisper:

I’m king 
        so long as I’m able/
I’m good
	so long as I’m feared/
I’m full
	so long as I’m stable/
I’m prey
	so long as I’m 



i don’t know who they are, but
they say if you want to
sing. if you want to dance,
show me. the darker-bodied
world i come from doesn’t 

know how to name 
this desperate shuffle of feet
for anything.
than the percussion
of shame steady, i stay

steady in this pooling
of reverb. i don’t trust
your hands any more than
i trust the
watch my uncle
gifted me from the home-

land. have you ever run
your palms along the trunk
of an olive tree? we hail
from the same 
place. my father tells me
about the old country, and i don’t ask

where the songs went, 
when we were left
with just verses 
belted out 
to God. i haven’t seen
my cousins in 10 years, but i watched

a nation that wants to own my nation
slither a fist into a keffiyeh and call
my country “fashion”— this is the pelt 
i know. and i’ve learned 
them and those like
them to be the kind that steal

all the steps before the grave; cueing
all of the joy, none of the 
grief. i know you won’t keep
it, but if i tell
you a secret
will you believe

i danced along the the spine of the shore,
built myself in the sand 
until the ocean
came for me.
i folded with the waves,

caught these hands held
up, and asked: what is the sun,
if not just the yolk
of the moon? or rather, what am i
in the dark if not just
a way to get

to you?
i heard them say that my people were 
bad, but we can’t be
that bad if 
mama still lets me in
after daybreak— the salty mess

of my pride baked into this
dress, her chuckling gently at
what is left of me.
do you know how i learned
to sing? i prayed;
burned verses into

my flesh, this patient garb.
i lost myself. i did
this until i forgot
what the cries meant.
 i watched them 

out of this chorus
of mouth. and still,
i asked, and still
God didn’t stop
me, didn’t
sing a word


About Tariq Luthun

Tariq Luthun is a Palestinian-American writer, strategist, and community organizer from Detroit, MI. Luthun is currently an MFA candidate for poetry at the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Among other things, he is Social Director of Organic Weapon Arts Press, and is co-founder of the new PoC-dedicated literary arts series FRUIT. He is an Emmy Award-winning poet and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry, The Offing, Winter Tangerine Review, and Button Poetry, among other credits. He is a deep dish pizza evangelist, and can best be described as the end-result of Drake falsetto-rapping Edward Said's "Orientalism." View all posts by Tariq Luthun

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