Ama, speak Arabic, please, I still understand it. No, America
didn’t make me forget, like it forgets my name. / It’s fine there,
except people keep asking to see my hair. He can make his own plate,
knows the names / of spices, has two hands, is sitting right there. I don’t always
talk about equality. I talk about school, my garden, what I’ll name /
these poems. Remember the fire last year? Grass still won’t grow
where the grenade hit. We knew there’d be no rescue — all the lambs
loose, a white stream emerging from the smoke cloud, directionless, with nothing
but their names. / Call my mother, Umm Threa — I’m firstborn.
Yes, he’s the first son, but my name / still matters. Yes, here I go again.
Do I tire you? Do you remember when I hadn’t yet been taught my two syllables,
head shaved, called Child, Little One, in an uncle’s hand-me-downs,
sexless as a mispronounced name? / Don’t deny it. We recognize women
through the men: Umm, mother of Ahmed. Bint, daughter of Ali —
their birth names / abandoned, an existence overlapped by his.
To strip down your own name / and fold it back together
is a kind of war. I dreamt of shouting it into a cave. Each letter was fed
to fatness and something was built bearing my name / after the echo died.
What Eve must have felt when Adam went ahead and named / all the animals
before she was even created. I feel it now whenever a mother
is named / for the son she births, a father by who he possesses.
A name / should be the sound we are found in. I learned early what God
likes to be called, swished a hundred names / around my mouth to taste
but my own. The other day someone’s cousin was patted down
by police, a Muslim death the news won’t cover. Maybe because
he had a name / like Abdullah, they’ll reverse the story, say he
pulled the trigger. I touch my forehead to brown earth, whisper
our names, / pray the ground cracks open this time. Yes, Ama,
would you believe our name / in America is a fish-hook, each vowel
like pulling glass from their tongues, trying not to get cut.
I wanted a name / that glided on gums, wouldn’t hit the back of teeth
with a rattle, no hitch on the voice box, please. I announced
myself and the sound arrived roiled and muddy like river silt
stirred up. The white kids laughed harder, rubbing their own names /
on each other, snakes polishing their scales. Even the wind in this country
can’t say it right, howling my name / like a throat mid-gurgle. I drank down
Jane’s and Emily’s as a whirlpool sucks waves, went home saying,
Call me Susie. I longed for a name / that left the lips readily.
One that could kiss and be kissed, one of tailored lawns, backyard pools,
lemonade stands. Now I tell them, If you can say Tchaikovsky,
you can say Threa. Yes, I remember my full name / — all ten
from my dad and the men before him. I recite them together.
They press against mine like bodies on a full boat, lost
between the Mahmood’s and Mohamed’s. Do names / exist the same
after translation? Do they thin-out like smoke does when it trails
up, past high branches and all the names / sung in trees? Threa drifting.
Threa as lone, gray wisp scattered by the wind,
until even the sky forgets
it was ever there.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHCOMING SOON with M Takolaner 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones