By Kiana Borjian

first day of “Women in Islamicate Societies:”

Why are you taking this class?

I begin swirling

like the dervishes

my mother is named for: Sufi

plus an “e”

I am jealous of her name –

the way it suits her worried eyes,

sacred face. What she knows

about Islam: not being able to join

swim team after the revolution. I dread

swimming, feigned a shoulder injury

to get out of water polo.

What I know about Islam:

climbing on my grandfather’s back,

the guttural whisper of his prayer

whirling around his spine, images

of birds and men with beards bordered

in emerald and gold. Do you think

my grandparents would accept my sexuality?

I ask my mother. You know

early examples of homosexuality are found

in Islam, in the harems my mother says.

I live in the gold embossed margins of my grandfather’s poetry books,

of my binder paper I struggle to fill

with notes. I have anxiety, so

I am not a history major. Or –

history sends me spiraling

into the recesses of my mother’s name

the photo albums of her mother’s mother and her mother’s mother

who look the way my mother taught me not to:

hair bridging their brows,

above their lips. My body

like history: uninhabitable, scarred,

erased, hairy.

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