Two Poems

Poetry / Majda Gama

When I See the Crescent in the American Sky

Ya ‘aini (my eyes)
always stung by the beauty
of our planet rotating on its axis,
by the geometry of what my people wrote:
when they wrote at all words were (in fact) embroidery;
there’s no permanence in a story that can’t be told
by mouth: stories begin in the throat behind teeth
& words can be swallowed. Words can be dangerous.
                    Crescent. Helal. Barely seen moon
over the sunset vigil for Nabra Hassanen.
There’s an understanding that the earth will turn,
That a month of fasting will give way to feast & that food
Will become boring again. Why must the pin oak
tree provide solace tonight & not the palm?
Why must the moon rise in the West
when it signifies the East? Isn’t this question
its own mystery requiring mystery letters to answer it.
                    Yes, my eyes. In Virginia they see
another night peopled with stars that have Arabic names.
By a lake a woman in niqab is patient, fanning herself
with the ends of the scarf veiling her face. Girls in hijab
& sneakers pass around fliers with Nabra’s face,
seeking ‘umra donations so her family can circumnavigate
the ka’aba for her. What of that moon over that sky?
I only want for her to still walk a Virginia street in safe moonlight
with friends, belly full of French fries, feet still growing,
starting her own rotation around the sun.

Ode in the Time of Refugees

Time was never interesting until now. Time was not
our current tyrant or an advancing doomsday
clock, but a titan devouring its young—no this
metaphor was not interesting at all. & doom, I drank it—
all of it, it was a dark beer—it was a nettle
in the shade of a summer spent saying good-bye
to biology, to the eggs I grew & shed & bled.
It was an English summer but felt like fall—
No, it was the winter of allowing time to catch up to me.
We live in interesting times: 2017, a saluki rescued from Doha,
with a notch in its ear for nobility, shivered on the asphalt
of Dulles, vaccinated, stamped, legal. I welcome the beast
from the East, greet it, habibi; the dislocation
in its eyes kin to the look in the eyes of the banned
behind us. In the airport a chorus of women sing:
This Land Is Your Land & forget the words. The song dies
after from the Redwoods. Our diamond deserts are lost in winter.

Majda Gama is a Saudi-American poet based in the Washington, DC area where she has roots as a DJ and activist. Recently she was a finalist in Yemassee Journal’s 2017 poetry contest and is a 2017 Best of the Net nominee. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Duende, Hunger Mountain, Jahanamiya (the first Saudi feminist literary journal) and are forthcoming from Hermeneutic Chaos, Slice, and the 90’s anthology Come As You Are. Majda reads poetry submissions for the literary journal Tinderbox.