This was originally published at The Rumpus on May 4, 2021.
New Country, Old Bones
To be stuck still while constantly moving.
Empty and full rooms.
Hearts and grocery store aisles.
In vain attempts
To stop the quiet
From taking back
Your borrowed breath.
What we feel
Is a child,
In a crowded place.
Unable to find familiar faces
Or clothes that fit and
Cover the fearful body
We inhabit without maps.
Trapped and losing.
So much can be lost in between days and years.
Sense of who you are/were.
Remembrance of what gave life
To the smiles dancing briefly on your face.
Who you were in 1979?
What did you hope to build in the
The place, that you carried your body,
And it’s dissatisfaction and youthful optimism, to live in.
You brought much to the new country beyond bones And sinew.
But the new country also left its weight
And bruises on your back and spirit.
What songs did you hum when you worked at being busy?
Similar stagnation and yearning growing in other young bodies now.
A son of your sister wants to follow adjacent paths
To the new country.
He too has glitter in his eyes and determination in his
For anything outside of the
Complacent cement surrounding his daily lives.
Who were you in Egypt?
The new country’s most powerful export is glitter.
It is movies. It is music.
It is the idea of finally getting something
Gain affluence and ease.
Gain appreciation and recognition.
Will anyone remember how hard days and years ground away what
really mattered to you?
What really mattered to you?
What remedies did your mother make of caraway and love?
Toil does not translate well, so the new country
Makes sure its grime is not an export.
Capitalism, such a lilting lullaby. Just keep working.
Bootstraps and star systems.
If I could only find work that doesn’t
Steal my strength and
Leave so much of me
Or leave my heart tired,
And miscalculating where
40 years have gone.
And why I still
Rumpus original logo art by Mina M. Jafari.
We Are More is an inclusive space for SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) and SWANA diaspora writers to tell our stories, our way. Curated by Michelle Zamanian, this new column seeks to disrupt the media’s negative and stereotypical narratives by creating a consistent platform to be heard, outside of and beyond the waxing and waning interest of the news cycle. We’ll publish creative nonfiction, graphic essays, fiction, poetry, and interviews by SWANA writers on a wide variety of subject matter.