Dimanche, 1 Septembre, deux mille treize.

My mother tells me she had me memorize

French numbers when I was 3, but the only

ones I would answer to were in Arabic.

I know numbers bear truth, so I must’ve

forgotten them on purpose.

On the first day of class, I am new.

I say, “Bonjour, je m’appelle 

Jood, je suis quatorze ans.”

My Arab tongue so used to

melting sukkari dates with only

a few strokes, it melted my French along

the way. 

My grandparents crossed sand dunes until

they saw rivers, and I know I would’ve

spoken different hadn’t

they escaped the war and came back.

I ask questions of who I am, and Darwish 

answers, “I am multiple, within me an 

ever new exterior.” And so I try to understand.

Am I the melody in my father’s laugh,

or the width in my mother’s smile?

I took my grandparents’ eyes and plastered them

onto mine, so when the question begins

to bubble— “Who am I?”—

I can seal it shut.

I know I am the crevices in my grandma’s

palms, and the hump on my aunt’s nose.

But which part of my ancestors have

I taken for my skin to spill

as light as cold milk, and which

part have I taken for my hair to

burn like the sun?

My parents tell me I am what they

are, so when my mother tells me to

memorize foreign numbers, 

I do, because I learned who I am.

Jood weaves her words in the heart of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


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