I muscle / through the crowd to dance
December 12, 2023
The hairstylist has known me for fifteen years and
he croons pretty, pretty while burning my curls straight.
I forget—how you can miss the crocuses peeking
through your life. I love this country, and the other one,
and the other one. It’s all salt when I visit—
za’atar and scrambled eggs, pumpkin seeds, bowls of loz.
Nadia is in the hospital and, when I enter her room,
I call out to the doctor, I’m sorry, this is the wrong
before interrupting myself. I pace the wires along the bed.
I write in a language none of them can read. Forgive me.
I didn’t say anything about the wedding in Beirut
or how I really thought I’d come back. I just read
the Fatiha and touched her hair, and the day will
come when a young woman in Beirut will muscle
her way through a nightclub and dance until her
feet ache, and I won’t be on this earth anymore.
The fledgling tree near the pharmacy will bloom
and die and bloom and the hairstylist tells me to lean
forward. My hair falls. The hairspray hisses. Pretty,
pretty. When I ask the doctor if she’ll wake up again,
he says inshallah, a gift, a falsehood, and I thank him
for the prayer, for the antimicrobial soap, for
my uncle later that night in the nightclub shouting,
I love my people, and the music moving my hips,
and the hairstylist grinning in the mirror, and I am
everyone’s daughter, everyone’s wife, I muscle
through the crowd to dance, I feel her hand in
my hair as the machine breathes for us both.
This poem appeared in We Call to the Eye & the Night: Love Poems by Writers of Arab Heritage, edited by Hala Alyan and Zeina Hashem Beck and published by Persea Books.