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Min Hayati

poems by Rayya Liebich

Print: 978-1-77133-871-4
80 Pages
June 10, 2021

This collection travels through a daughter’s childhood memories in Montreal, her mother’s homeland of Lebanon, and the dark realities of grief across borders. Min Hayati uncovers the well of sorrow and the depth of love discovered only through loss. Poetry pays homage to the author’s maternal lineage, her mixed ethnicity, and the ways in which “mother” transcends all aspects of life.

Min Hayati advocates for a radical change in our approach to grief and the (still) taboo subjects of death, dying, and grief. Poems speak in particular to motherless-daughters around the world. Most importantly, the poet’s Arab roots sets her apart as a Canadian poet with a different story.

“Rayya Liebich’s debut collection presents bereavement’s value as a tribute to love. Her mother’s unexpected death in Geneva is treated with a tenderness and respect that is unusual in North America. Min Hayati unfolds with joy and delights that will make you weep. Rayya Liebich is a poet of elegance and grace, sagacity and wit.”
—Susan Andrews Grace, author of Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being

“To make sense of her mother’s death, Rayya Liebich has created a collection of acute, aching poems that explore the themes of grief’’s spectrum: disbelief, anger, sadness, loneliness, acceptance and reconciliation. Liebich’s imagery is infused with the physical body, the very marrow of being alive, which she deftly weaves with everyday objects that startle with sudden meaning. This collection will move you, cradle you in a longing for homeland, of what it means to lose, and it will land you in a place of slow, alluring reclamation.”
—Tara Cunningham, Editor, Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine

Min Hayati


Rayya Liebich is a Canadian poet of Lebanese and Polish descent. Winner of the Richard Carver Award for Emerging Writers  (2019), The Geneva Literary Award  (2015), and The Golden Grassroots Chapbook Award (2015), her poetry and prose have also appeared in literary journals internationally. Passionate about writing as a tool for transformation, she teaches creative writing classes to youth, adults, and seniors in beautiful Nelson, BC. Min Hayati is her debut collection of poetry.

Ainaab, Lebanon

We planted an olive tree
in memory of you
under the parasol pines
at sundown

Cicadas sang through the dust
with a symphony of pine nuts
popping like corn
above our heads
A third good-bye
and still no ashes
to slip beneath the roots
red earth left raw and crumbling

We stood as silhouettes on mountain
cliffs until the pink sun
slipped
behind black dresses, final notes
of metal shovel Taps rang like a bugler
sending soldiers to sleep

One by one we went inside
our solemn procession
leaving you in the breeze
your sage leaves behind us
fluttering

One Year

Thirteen moons rising
like jasmine white flowers
one petal falling for each month
of absence

One year and I cling like Jupiter
red in the black fury
you left me in a sky with so many stars
still I cannot find
Polaris

Snow illuminates a sky of gold perfume
I reach for the sweet scent of jasmine
falling on my pillow and I am a child again
and can feel your breath at bedtime

Paterson Border Crossing

My heritage voyaged the vessel Allegri
from Port Lebanon to Barcelona,
bobbing through soda cans and plastic bags
seamlessly over the translucent jellyfish
across the Mediterranean

Until the day in September along the invisible divide
somewhere between the golden aspen speckled line
and arches of the hemlock trees
I came to claim my inheritance, to clear customs
from a stranger in a black uniform, a red
maple leaf badge

We stood four in the hollow back of a semi-truck
silent while the driver jumped like a ninja
on the wooden crate, released twelve different
bolts and paused dramatically to lift the lid, like a casket

The officer with kind eyes and a gun in his holster
fumbled with too-small keys and pried open the green
trunk I once used at summer camp, the latch clicked down,
sea salt mingled with memories. He handed me
a stack of Polaroid photos, the white borders stark against
black leather gloves, my grandmother’s face
beaming up from his hands

He rummaged through my Kindergarten crafts, tempera
yellow paint cracking to powder like turmeric from all
the blonde little girls I once painted with happy bows in their hair
He passed me a shoebox labeled valuables with my mother’s cursive letters,
through a peek I caught a glow, my golden baby bracelets, my first
silver spoons—
closed the lid like Pandora

Satisfied; there was nothing of value, the official pointed to pink forms
let me claim what was mine and with the box—against my chest,
drove home, the truck bending down mountain roads to follow

Next came the rustle, unpacking paper like leaves
crunching underfoot, the slice pull of
taupe tape, heaps of bubble wrap
like a carpet of fog over a lake

Fifty-two floral Palmyra plates, Bride of the Desert stamped
ten double handled teacups that slide on their saucers
five copper pots, tin lining speckled with green
fourteen Christmas collection plates, painted holly and mistletoe, my
mother’s initials on the backs
one miniature Quran, golden threads lacing the spine
Great Uncle Lucien’s hundred-year-old leather suitcase too big to lift
two mosaic-trimmed mirrors, mother of pearl and ivory white
one top-hat box lined with orange paisley fabric, fraying at the seams
thirteen bundles and batches of over-sized spoons, forks, and knives,
the weight of silver like lead in each hand

Two years ago I would have clung to each object like it was
my mother, pressed my nose into each package
searching for the ocean or a faint hue of jasmine

Now, her belongings are symbols,
loaded links without tears,
gifts of her absence
an infusion of the Orient
welcoming ancestors—
home.

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