a crowd, but calm
the routine anxiety is absent
consonants you faintly recognize travel to your ear
you try to make out the tongue,
but think it rude to ask
in your white skin, your white face
you remember the time you asked the ethnically
ambiguous boy at the rec center "what are you?"
noticing his first and last names
were not a typical combination
now you feel a sunburn of embarrassment
because surely ahmad what's-his-name
didn't know that white girl
was just trying to say
i'm a swirl too
i'm just like you
but too naive to know
the hegemony of my history
that words like these don't just roll off
white girls' tongues without consequence,
and damage done
so I don't ask
even when I hear my father's tongue
and my heart cries joy at the familiar
even though ahmad what's-his-name probably
forgot my inquiry many moons ago
i don't ask,
i walk on by,
my short shorts screaming invisibility
in one and a half languages
i tug at my golden necklace
i try to tan
i mouth to myself what I would have said
if i had the decency
to wear a scarf
Summer Awad is a playwright, spoken word artist, and a case manager at Bridge Refugee Services. Her work centers around diaspora, biculturalism, and feminism. Her play, WALLS: A Play for Palestine, played at the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival and earned her the Artist of Change Award from Community Shares Tennessee.
She might be a ballerina in her old denim
floating or perhaps an apprentice Amazon
fighting or giggling with little friends in dresses
laughing or moaning with the hurt of a scrape.
She could be everything dreams made her to
be or again learning her trade with the quill
become or change as she walks and slowly
turns or stay in a pose puzzling to even space.
She would guess a journey to continue on
always or maybe imagine in her heavy boots
never or per chance to fly on the back of a steed
some time or at last to travel in her breast to infinity.
She is in truth with her wand more than a friend
apparition or dawn she guides strings, winds, and
percussion or she writes on eternal walls a code of her
creation or making worlds she exhales lives in a mere sigh.
She might be God as she glides into another day
in elegance or a glowing robe refreshing to the stars
with her scent or everlasting births given to angels
inside the palace or a shack, she might be God after all.