Two Poems by Lana I. Ghannam

Dark Matter

the townsfolk sing we shall overcome
while hope bleeds slowly from my mouth

—Lucille Clifton, “jasper texas 1998”

Another black man was shot last week,
his life a toll in the streets. People pitched hope

with their sticks and cardboard anger,
sang new songs to hide their hate—

a spice sprinkled on food, dripped into drink.
Their hope spread like birdfeed—

messy, not enough to go around.
It got caught on balloon strings, carried off

on the wind. Kids watched it float too high—
colored sprinkles sticking to clouds.

With empty stomachs, hands raised and open,
their toes sank into the dirt that covers us all.

We are done with this dust. We are done. 


I speak not for myself but for those without voice.
—Malala Yousafzai

My mother came to this country
with a whisper lodged in her throat.
It clung to her insides waiting
for the moment it could launch itself

as a smooth pebble from a slingshot.
But that whisper wasn’t a whisper.
And that pebble wasn’t smooth.

Its edges could cut through water
instead of gliding into the current.
Its ridges formed small mountains
for the ant, a meteor to the beetle,

caves to hold the spider’s web.

My mother came to this country
so she could sing. Her voice grew
inside walls surrounded by America.
Her voice blew the roof from our home.

Her song turned to storm until she
was thunder, and her thunder shook me
to bone. How dare I hum quiet tunes

while the white man barks law and crowns
himself king? I, too, am thunder. How dare I
lose my mother’s voice in the clouds
when I can carry it farther on the wind?

I, too, can howl.

My mother came to this country
and whispered sharp sounds in my ear,
taught me to break English and glue it
back together until I learned that I, too,

could sing, storm, and shake this earth.
Take this tongue and give me wind.
Give me water, I will wave. Give me

land, I will quake. Give me sky to rage
louder than my mother could storm. Let me
clear the webs, calm her seas. I’ll seal
the sky with new clouds so she hears how

I, too, bring the rain.

Lana I. Ghannam’s chapbook, Two Tongues, was published in June 2019 (Finishing Line Press), and her poetry has appeared in Mississippi Review, Prism Review, Raleigh Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Sukoon, and The Cape Rock, among other journals. She received her MFA from University of Central Florida in 2015, and she teaches English composition. She’s a first-generation Palestinian-American.

Cover image by Kurt Viers.