Poem by Threa Almontaser
I wanted fine hair, a rich dad, a pair of pantyhose.
To hold my tongue from rolling r’s,
stop my throat from turning juice into goose.
I wanted people to believe I didn’t come
from somewhere else. I repeated new sounds slowly,
coordinated facial expressions with words:
scorn, relief, dismay — feelings still unknown to me
in English. Would sabr work the same as patience
with its Norman linguistic? Would mercy look as fervent
as rahma? How would I convey, in Saxon semantics,
when someone harak galbi; hurt me from within,
a literal scald to my heart? Could I display these
honestly in another’s language? I practiced
in the mirror for hours, blocked any Arab influence
that might sneak in, longing to live fully in English.
But my face would never yield — like a kite
with no wind, it always dropped back into old ways.
After my accent adapted, my face still told another story:
that I am from somewhere else, a land
blanketed in sand, spice, sun. A Middle Eastern map
cut out and placed deftly into my dark pupil
for those who looked close enough.
THREA ALMONTASER is a Yemeni-American writer born and raised in New York City. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the 9th annual Nazim Hikmet poetry competition. Her work has appeared in The Baltimore Review, Track//Four Journal, Kakalak Magazine, Gravel Magazine, Day One Journal, and elsewhere. She currently teaches English to immigrants and refugees in Raleigh. Besides writing, Threa enjoys traveling to places not easily found on a map.