Poet Ahmad Almallah

9 November, 2023

Poetry Markaz presents three poems from Ahmad Almallah’s recently-published collection, Border Wisdom, from Winter Editions. In his second book of poems, Almallah seeks a language that captures the afterlives of the mother tongue. This collection blurs the borders between languages, between the living and the dead, between presence and absence.




Ahmad Almallah


the law is clear, an eye
for an eye, an ear for an ear:

arms hold hands, hands
hold arms: and the stone

is raised in the air, then
here and here: bones

break in images:
there there, calm yourself

down, and down again:
hunted, now you can

haunt: the shatterings
underneath purple flesh

the blood pulsing from vein to
vein, and the spills that stain


the world is not as bad as our
made it to be that day—
we’ve seen worse days—
and how beautiful
they were, these days living
strife: how we loved everything about
not having to go to school:

I won’t describe the past for you,
I tell you I got held
at borders, I tell you I am
used to it, and what? What is this record
you play over and over: don’t get
used to it, you shouldn’t
it’s sad—I bow in recognition:

and after the long journey
from border to border, wanting
only piece after piece of these walls around me to start
what does not getting used to it do for me?


the flowers:       almost
done with themselves—
green slowly taking
over, and passing
the usual block, one street
the rust eating
window frames, chairs eating rust
by the door
and the wood

inside is out:
everything we know
every bite we eat
to consume us.


The poems of Border Wisdom break and mourn physical borders at the same time. Here the exilic idea of a return to a home is expressed in the daily return to the blank page in search of a poem. In these returns the body brushes against the past and, as Hart Crane puts it, taps into “that memory all things nurse.”

In Border Wisdom, Ahmad Almallah takes the notable step of writing in a mix of Arabic and English scripts, a bilingual poetics that has surfaced intermittently among the finest of our experimental writers. For this and for his exemplary writings in standalone English, I would extend to him the well-known welcome that Emerson directed to Whitman nearly two centuries ago: I greet you at the beginning of a great career.

—Jerome Rothenberg

Ahmad Almallah is a poet from Palestine. His first book of poems Bitter English is now available in the Phoenix Poets Series from the University of Chicago Press. His new book Border Wisdom is now available from Winter Editions. He received the Edith Goldberg Paulson Memorial Prize for Creative Writing, and his set of poems “Recourse,” won the Blanche Colton Williams Fellowship. Some of his poems and other writing appeared in Jacket2, Track//Four, All Roads will lead You Home, Apiary, Supplement, SAND, Michigan Quarterly Review, Making Mirrors: Righting/Writing by Refugees, Cordite Poetry Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Great River Review, Kenyon Review, Poetry and American Poetry Review. Some of his work in Arabic has appeared in Al-Arabi Al-Jadid and Al-Quds Al-Arabi. His English works have been translated into Arabic, Russian and Telugu. He is currently Artist in Residence in Creative Writing at the University of Pennsylvania.

Arabic poetryPalestinePalestinian poetTranslation

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