Brown-Skinned Paranoia

On the phone with my mother, I use euphemisms
for suicide bombings back home—
tragedies, I call them, or cruelties.
She is not allowed to say the word terrorism.
“I have an Arab name,
you never know who’s listening,” I say.
“You mean talking to your mother
about the place that bore you isn’t safe?”

I wake up flighty,
the metal clang of the heater vent
sounding like gunfire,
the front door falling in,
footfalls, someone come to take me away.
Outside the kitchen window at this hour,
a dense cloud over the city,
the neighborhood chimneys smoking,
lights dampened in the distance like muffled cries.

Flying out of Texas, six months along,
I am pulled for a random screening
so routine now, I take my position without instruction,
feet planted on the mat, legs apart, arms stretched.
The woman, efficient, thorough,
asks me to lower the waistband of my pants.
I look at her impatient hands, the latex gloves limp
on her fingers seem to say, I’m just doing my job.
I will my skin to harden, disbelief bleeding into shame,
feel my daughter’s kicks, an anger rising inside us both.
I comply and do not say,
“Surely you don’t think I am pregnant with a bomb.”

On the phone again, the fear still changes flavor,
licks along the instinct of motherhood.
“I cannot come back,” I say in a mire of what-ifs.
What-if she contracts dengue or hepatitis,
what-if she dies because there are no real doctors there,
what-if someone snatches her from me,
what-if we get caught in a tragedy, become the aftermath of a cruelty?
“Your people are not monsters,” my mother screams,
patience extinguished like a first-world scandal.
I say nothing. I say nothing.

Noorulain Noor

1 Comment

  1. Beautiful!

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