“On the Reconstruction of Shame with Lines from Mashrou’ Leila” by Yasmeen Alkishawi

Yasmeen Alkishawi


At thirteen I wanted
nothing more than for my belly to tuck and roll 
to the voice of a bearded man singing 
      a universe grows on my body.
      To get pushed 
into a crowd whose every undulation is in a tribute to me
        being untouched. I am not yielding. 
                   Still you pronounced me as beautiful,
and I said habibi, keep singing, 
      and I will keep doing the things a woman is not supposed to do. 

In the 7th grade prayer room, we practiced falling
                    on our knees 
      without the thump—muted, 
      is either what they think we are, or what they want us to be.
Ahmed’s parents wanted a son who didn’t want other boys, who wanted 
their own hands to unravel despite their unwilling of it? The reprieve of 
knowing Egypt will eventually lift their ban, and Mashrou’ will sing again 
and suddenly life gives me back All that it has taken from me

And suddenly it’s just you and the man you love most 
      is on the other end of the crowd, 
                 who in all black and fully veiled 
                 won’t let you touch him for no other reason than, 
well, it’s ungodly. 
Tell them. Say it. Say, He blew love in my chest. 
                 My God he blew love in my chest. 
                                   Shame is in the past.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021


Yasmeen Alkishawi: “Sometimes I think I am just writing all the things I am too afraid to say out loud. As Romeo Oriogun said, ‘I am always inheriting the fear of all that is lost.’ For me, my poems are a vessel for the confrontation of that fear. Through this confrontation, I can attempt to piece together the shatterings of hope, wherever they may be.”

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