Letters From an Arab-American to Her Unnamed Ancestor
Habibti: from the moment I was born, my mother knew,
you were in my blood and no denying it,
for Arab girls are known for stubbornness
that blossoms into resilience, and for that I am grateful.
What would you say of this American household,
in which no one speaks the language of their parents?
Habibti, all I know of our culture is my Quran of gold
and my Masha’Allah, and that you, beloved, are my namesake.
I know nothing of your life— just the fanciful story
of a man escaping his birthright,
and the woman who followed his one-way ticket
with a whispered, I’m coming with you.
Habibti, I have always wanted to wear my heritage
like a badge of honor, and of this story I can be proud,
but now, beloved, my shoulders feel the weight
of our country’s history, and I do not know what to think.
That golden Quran has become the part of me that is you.
Habibti, if you were happy and equal, then I can fault no one,
but I must look upon a book that tells devout men
they may beat their wives, and ask, What is worth keeping?
If religion is supposed to be our moral guide, then why
do people of every color invoke its teachings in the name of war?
Will alms-giving absolve a man who kills in the name of peace?
Is forgiveness through prayer salvation for our conscience?
Habibti, I have always tried to live openly and respect
those things that are foreign to me, but I have also grown
to judge through evidence, and through my silence
I fear that I may be a perpetrator of this violence.
I want to stand against this violation of human rights, Habibti,
stand for the women who came before me, but do I even
have a right to speak against this experience I have never had?
And how, how can I possibly reject the culture that is my heritage?
Habibti, I realize now that I do not know your story
so well as I thought, though your blood is now my blood;
but I do know that of our country and culture,
and I will do my descendant’s duty to tell it as best I can.
Chelsea Fujimoto is a Massachusetts-based fiction writer and veterinary student with a penchant for poetic prose and slam poetry. She graduated in 2015 with a B.A. in Biology from Skidmore College, and will be attending veterinary school in London. Her poetry has been previously accepted to the Rising Phoenix Review, and she also maintains a personal blog, Nubes de la Mente (Clouds of Thought): https://nubesdelamente.wordpress.com. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.