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
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.