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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Paula Kaufman

My Students

An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine.

Have dark humor. During the Second Intifada, forbidden to leave the house except for bread. Why do you think we were the biggest generation? What else were we supposed to do with our time? They laugh. One of my students wants to become a poet, but she doubts she will marry. Not possible to be both a mother and writer here, spoon and pen cannot share the same hand, she says. Students ask me all the words for ache in English. Tooth, stomach, ear, heart. Tears blur kohl eyeliner, fathers gone from heart failure routes blocked by walls. Samoud now teaches English in China. She learned to ride a bike inside my apartment. Once, we ventured into the park. Freedom for the purple manicure. Abeer’s name means fragrance. She taught me to chop tabouli, finer, finer. Malak is the oldest girl of five boys. Her name means angel. She always wore pink. The name Nour means “light.” Three times my bike lock stuck. Strangers freed the Yalla Habibi, trailed extension cord up mountain, used stone under sun to chip away chain. My desk groaned beneath sweets. I did not dare tell students when it was my birthday. I feared a camel! Parade. And still, Dana, gifted me guavas from her trees, fragrance perfuming halls. Dana kept her green hijab loose around her neck. I did not notice until she told me; how the wind lived there.

Nablusi Easter Feast with Wine

Rouda embroiders Christmas scenes,

asks me to bring Santa patterns from America.

Her husband is Muslim; she, Christian.

She directs the local women’s center,

takes time to prepare maamoul date cookies,

roasted meat, salad. She survived prison.

Her husband was there, too. He talks less.

She shares his story: When he told the guards he was sick,

they led him shirtless through snow.

The second time, he said nothing.

Once, someone snuck almonds into his cell.

They were broken out with a fist.

This rose and kunafeh-scented home:

memories cut from albums; stolen frames.

Easter dinnerware sparkles.

Light gleams off the thin-stemmed wine glasses.


Paula Kaufman hails from the only state entirely within the Appalachian mountains. She likes writing about Appalachia, Japan and Palestine. She believes in the power of poems to change harmful narratives and realities. She likes homemade jam, black licorice laces, local honey and other sweetness. Her work is published or forthcoming from Heartwood, Quail Bell Magazine, Brittle Star and North Dakota Quarterly.

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