"It takes six hours to dig a grave": Dania Alkhouli At Her Poetic Best

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"It takes six hours to dig a grave": Dania Alkhouli At Her Poetic Best

Dania Alkhouli, Syrian author and poet, shares 3 of her soul-stirring poems that may stay with you for life.

the death of enough generations

it takes six hours to dig a grave / by hand / if you’re an expert digger. / the good shepherd cemetery glistens greenery / through hospital windows. / my father’s / overlooking a part brimming / with trees so tall / they hide / the graves below. / but my father was is a wise man / despite tumor / despite stroke. / he knows what does not pulsate beneath / bruising flesh and fading scars. / four months / three hospitals / too much pain / and one dying man later / we shovel up secrets / wonder / if it’s irony or serendipity / that a hospital and a cemetery share earth. / the same asphalt below / doctors extends out / and under aching soles marching / behind the funeral of a dead father. / nothing separating them but a copper rusted fence. / dad used to work here / seven minutes from home. / home. / what does that even mean anymore? / the cemetery sings 10 o’clock. / tells the living of another hour lost / in a melody of faint bells. / how does a cemetery make money? / as in after every $8,000 plot is sold / what capitalistic use does this land have? / would it not yield more space / more money / if we are buried vertically? / or do we strike magma at 14 feet under? / are plots recycled every 200 years / when we can guarantee the death of enough generations / to confirm the erasure of the memory of the deceased / and the crumbling of his bones / to salt?


13 types of death

the hangnail that unzips
my skin as a whole,
falling in love with a widower
who never healed,
using a cell phone
while it’s plugged in,
my mother becoming a widow,
the seeds I swallowed at six
finally blooming trees in my stomach,
getting bit by a black widow,
rejecting a man’s advances,
untemporary plane turbulence,
outliving my parents,
being a woman—outspoken,
realizing I’m still in love with the widower
who has not yet healed,
slipping in the shower,
mastering loneliness.


damask rose blooms in california

thunderless skies leave
an exotic desert. hoarding
for life, but blooming still—
ivory flesh petals
and prickly green spines.
one deeply rooted stem holding
on to her alabaster
pink tinged skin. planted,
once hoping to be a trunk
branded, with someone’s heart.
now tired of waiting
to be carved,
like a pumpkin, dying
for all its orange to be expelled.
she is hard
enough for the carving,
but soft
enough to not be called
a sculpture.


Dania Alkhouli is a Syrian writer, poet, editor, and author, born and raised in Southern California. Her work focuses on themes of culture, religion, identity, mental health, domestic violence and sexual assault, feminism, and grief and loss.

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