You are seated in a cheap lawn chair in the middle of my bathroom.
This will become a poem about a flung teargas canister, but first
your hair. The weight of stainless-steel clippers in my hand,
a countertop strewn with half a dozen plastic trimming guards,
the shower rug pushed to the hall. D’Angelo’s voice aching through us.
I am bent over you, combing the tight of your curls.
I am bent over the root of you; a root, a root D’Angelo cries.
I ask which guard to use first and you answer. I plant myself
to the buzz of the clippers, the soft clouds of hair.
Before the gas begins to choke us in Tahrir Square,
there is only this: you, showered, freshly cut, dancing
in the living room. The small, the insignificant.
On a video I did not want to watch, a man cries: look
at the wind, look at the teargas. It’s a hair away from us.

Photograph of Joumana Altallal

About the Writer

Joumana Altallal is an Iraqi-Lebanese writer and Zell Fellow in Poetry at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. She works with Citywide Poets to lead a weekly after-school poetry session for high school students in Metro-Detroit. Her work appears, or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Glass Poetry, Muzzle Magazine, Mud Season Review, and Rusted Radishes. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers' Conference, Napa Valley Writer's Conference, and the Radius for Arab American Writers. You can find Joumana on Twitter @joualt.