12 July 2022 Hannan Issa’s ‘Fairoz and French Toast’

A much acclaimed poem by Hannan Issa, of Iraqi-Welsh heritage, recently chosen as the national poet of Wales:

“You always write my name in barbecue sauce on the plate

And now I can’t hear a Fairouz song without seeing

your beautiful back flipping egg-soaked bread, pouring my coffee.

She’s singing about Beirut: She tastes like fire and smoke.

I chew the warm soggy bread, the salty toast and sweet sauce.

You hum along with her: You are mine, you are mine.

The coffee tastes strong, a bit ashy. I picture the fire

and smoke of all the places where they love Fairouz.

‘Another piece?’ You take my plate and replenish my name.

The coffee leaves debris on my tongue. I want to hold it all –

the breakfast, the music, your back. Even the coffee.

Please, don’t stop humming: You are mine, you are mine.

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