Teta and The Biscuit


by Sarah El Halabi


I am worried about everything 

and the world is suddenly too large to carry 

I want to hold with the nimblest fingers

a chipped coffee cup brimming with cardamom  

a borrowed burning cigarette 

a butter biscuit dipped and forgotten 

sodden and saturated with the rising sun 

I want to breathe in the cold air

let it sting for a minute 

think of nothing else but my lungs 

and the unhampered breathing 

and the unhampered breathing.


Please do not ask me to be patient 

Today, in Beirut thousands are still brushing the glass of their homes

or what is left of them off the streets 

the country hangs posters of its youth and fumes and weeps 

What happened to the Mediterranean?

to the cups and the mornings 

to the crisp air and small loveliness 

to my hand on your old, hunched shoulder

that had witnessed all the wars and the crumbling of nations 

as you complained (very rightly so)

that I had forgotten my biscuit dipped again 

making it too soft to withstand the crunching of bones. 

Sarah El Halabi is a first year psychiatry resident at Westchester Medical Center/New York Medical College and a previous graduate of the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia University. Her poem, “Teta and The Biscuit,” is part of her chapbook First There Was My Country centered around her experiences as a Lebanese woman over the past 3 years.