I AM TRYING TO BE THE RIGHT KIND
of arab girl/ tell you about the jasmine tree i birthed in my mouth/ dot the sky with the letters i learned in uterine/ try to speak the tongue my mother lavished/ try to stand in the turab of my ancestors' miktha// am i doing it yet/
i used to think the ithan was singing the praise of a light bulb/ it made sense to me that god was great like a glow/ i used to think bism il saleeb was a cross in the mouth/ sucked & swallowed like communion/ now i say inshallah & hamdillah & allah bi deer balou al jamee/ but what i mean is/ are you there god/ it’s me mejdulene/ i just called to say/ i love the idea of you/
arab girl/ eyebrows & curls/ dancing dabke/ wearing her grandmother’s thowb/ inked her hands with zeitoun/ throwing off the evil eye/ laughing ein ghain fa into the sun/ letters froth from her throat like qahwa on the stove/
i couldn’t/ be/ you/ arab girl/
I KEEP WAKING UP IN AMERICA
right now i’m eating an egg sandwich my baby made. she fluffs the yolks with sour cream, sprinkles the scramble with chives. she layers sausage on a brioche bun & brings it to my desk where i sink into the internet & consume crises. if complaining were my job i’d get promoted. i sip coffee & swallow everything without tasting.
right now the cats are sleeping on my bed. the dog too. they are only peaceful when they are sleeping. the interspecies conflict is nothing compared to how the cats spar with one another. i’m telling you about my cats because i think hating cats is sexist & i’m so tired of hearing about dogs & men.
right now my sisters are at work. a non-profit director, a chemist, an editor walk into a refugee camp, a lab, an office. my brother climbs poles for AT&T but i still can’t get free wifi. my father goes to physical therapy. sometimes a therapist tries to “assess his mental faculties.” this means she asks him banal questions, like "what is the year?" my mother wishes it was 74 but knows it’s not.
right now my ancestors are dead & my progeny are imaginary. right now i am the future they never imagined. right now i can’t imagine a future. right now my cousins can’t come to this country. right now my countries are soaked in blood. right now the sun is shining & the breeze is gentle. right now is passing into right after. right before the end i try beginning.
MEJDULENE B. SHOMALI is a Palestinian American poet and Assistant Professor in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her work, both scholarly and creative, centers on queerness, femininity, Palestine, and transnational Arab culture. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Tinderbox, Diode Press, Mizna, The Pinch Journal, and elsewhere.