Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Janan Alexandra





parable as ars poetica 

( i ) 


The shape of the ʾ is assumed to come from a pictogram of the mouth. Girl sees a curled shoe, 
a buckle or person sitting with legs outstretched & toes flexed, arms making a pleasing loop, head studying something small. 

                   Girl rests her oars in their oarlocks & takes notes: 

                             Fāʾfathah (فَـ /fa ) is a multi-function 
                             prefix equivalent to “so” or “so that”   

                             Example: نَكْتُب  naktub means we write 

                             + ف   → فَنَكْتُب  fanaktub means so we write



( iii ) 


1. (hand)   كف

2. In literary Arabic, kaph is used as a prefix to mean like or as or as though 

3. If kaph is a hand that means like or as or as though, then kaph is a simile

4. Simile is a hand touching two places at once, a hand bringing together 

                   two far away things, making a transfer (metaphor)

5. For example: 

                             كَطَائِر     (   like a bird or as though a bird   )

6. poem 

    as though 



parable of water & mothers 

( i )


girl draws her bucket 
up from the well 

her mother calls تعالي
finger beckoning come home  

mother like a shepherd
with her pastoral staff 

pastoral like a swan 
circling in the ripple 


( ii )


girl’s favorite shape
is the meem. she loves 
to make it with her 




ممممممممممممممممstroke cruelممممم 
& sweetمممممممممممممممmeemممممم
cameممممممممfrom a symbolممممم
ممممممم مممممممfor waterممhence 
the words mayyمممممmaiمممممma
مممممممممممممم mamaمممممممممم


( iii )


Girl’s favorite word is نحن

It means We

Even before she knew the word she loved the sound  

Here: Nahnou

Maybe she loves it because it sounds like ننون 

Or maybe because Girl is thinking about We 

Girl wonders areyoumyWe? 






&youme? AndusWe? 

In Arabic, there is an expression:

“nus-nus” (remember?) 

It means half-half

Half for you & half for me 




Author photo courtesy of author

janan alexandra is a Lebanese-American poet and MFA candidate at Indiana University. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Martha's Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing, Provincetown's Fine Arts Work Center, and the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. She currently works as Associate Director of the IU Writers' Conference, in addition to teaching creative writing classes to undergraduate students. You can find her work in Ploughshares, The Adroit Journal, Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab-America, and elsewhere. More from this author →