new haven, ct

31 MARCH 2009


Summer Night in Elm City
Small House Breathing
The Hidden Lives of Numbers
You or the Moon?
Beirut Summer 2006

About Claire Zoghb



summer night in elm city

Most of the elms that gave New Haven its nickname perished in the mid-20th century from Dutch Elm disease.


My father likes to tell how I screamed each night
those first three months. And I’ve always believed him—

to this day I’m prone to tears, still can’t bear the soggy
woolen sweater of summer in this city. I stole the sleep

of my dazed parents, Dziadziu the landlord and his wife
downstairs and, next door, the convent of nuns 

whose vows should have saved them from that very torture.
The city’s windows gaped open like parched mouths.

The double row of elms lining our street
had already begun their quiet dying.

Come morning, the sisters admired my napping face—
Such a sweet child!—through the netting of my carriage

as my mother, sleepwalker, pushed me from State Street
to Orange and back again in the lush, forgiving shade.



small house breathing

Awakened by a storm at midnight
I listen for it while my eyes slide down walls
with reflected rivulets of Cape Cod rain.
Lightning flashes like thoughts
of a child come to me. The ticking
I hear is that of my watch and then, only when
I place it on my ear. Last night, a friend’s
newborn yelped into the phone as
she told me of her wonder at this
new universe of two. The night is wild
with creation. An insomniac Nature
tosses in her bed, too restless to let me sleep.
Another flash of lightning and I see my
lover as a boy running the streets of Beirut, snipers
poised in their nests, thunder of shelling. My mother
and father sleep on the other side of the wall.
I hear their breathing between gusts of rain.
I hear the small house breathing, its walls
running with water, air filled with the smell of salt,
the house itself become a womb.



the hidden lives of numbers

In color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are associated with colors.

Learning numbers as a preschooler,
my mind swirled with color.

Counting was kaleidoscopic.

Starting with 1—
a radiant slip
of a numeral, lean
vertical unfettered—
pure white. The
undisputed beginning.

In school I learned that
yellow, red and blue,
were the sources of all.
I thought: 2, 3, 4.

Then later, simple addition, subtraction—
it never made sense to me
why, if 4 + 5 = 9, didn’t blue
and green mixed make

7, mysteriously,
suggested no particular color.
I guessed it might be
the whole rainbow, or some
color we could not see,
could not name.

0 carried no color, either,
but every kindergartener knows
0 symbolizes nothing.
0 is a sound—a moan,
muffled ringing of a phone
in a winter afternoon’s endless
twilight. Or the sound
the empty crib made
in my parents’ bedroom,
red times
before I was green.



you or the moon?

Aswan, Upper Egypt
"Is it you or the Moon?" Arabic saying, upon seeing a person one has not seen for a lengthy period of time.
felucca: a narrow fast lateen-rigged sailing vessel

Only the moon—
and how many have risen
for all-night chats
with the Aga Khan’s
ghost, smoke from shared
cigarettes sailing dark
sky like feluccas
above his miniature
Taj Mahal, before
the moon tips its face
to empty
its nightly tribute
of silver
into the eternal



Beirut summer 2006

Eggs dropped.

Then bombs—
and more bombs

until eggs stopped

How much heart
does it take
to conceive
as shells crack open
at your feet?

To name the child
not war
but heart?



's work has appeared in Yankee, Connecticut Review, CALYX, Saranac Review, Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, Natural Bridge and Through A Child’s Eyes (an anthology on children and war). A Pushcart nominee, Claire was the winner of the 2007 Dogwood annual poetry competition and several of her poems were selected as finalists for the 2007 and 2008 Rita Dove Poetry Prize. Her first collection, Small House Breathing, won the 2008 Quercus Review Book Award and will appear in autumn, 2009. She lives with her husband in the Morris Cove section of New Haven and works as graphics director at Long Wharf Theatre.