To My Womyn. To Myself.

You were born in times of tragedy and all you’ve ever wanted to do with your life was stretch your arms out so wide, your love could reach everyone.

I ask my father about the war

He says he’s not ready.

It’s been 21 years.

I ask my mother about the war

She sings me a love song.

The women in my family have seen the world end and start and start and end again and again before their eyes, but they never stopped being warm, never stopped holding love to their core.

My mother has a love song for every occasion. for when each of her seven kids were born. for when i brought home my first C. for when her father left her family.

I ask her, “what song did you sing the day the civil war came? the day your country set itself on fire? the day your henna turned into war paint? the day the sky cracked open and swallowed your whole nation whole?”

She said, “that was the day the Earth took refuge in my throat and created a lump too big to swallow. the day no melodies escapes from my tongue.”

She said, when women stop singing is when you know you’ve lost the war.

this is why she’s had me singing since the day i was born. why i was told to hold her language under my tongue like a hidden pill and to never lose it.

But holding onto another culture in this nation that hates the other is not painless. it is the war after the war.

But just as our women mend together our broken nations, they can mend together our broken hearts.

So when you arrive to this country and work hard and pay taxes only to be accused of stealing the jobs of white people more worthy, do not cry, do not break.

And when you spend your whole life polishing your english in hopes of not having your otherness detected, only to still be rejected, do not cry, do not break.

After you’ve wiped away every bit of the 3rd world off your skin and off of your tongue, after you’ve declared every bit of your allegiances to this nation, it will still find ways to break your heart in half.

But just as our women mend together our broken hearts.

There will be days when the shame is all too much to bare. when it smothers and suffocates you. when love is like an unattainable breath of fresh air in a polluted sky.

Our mothers spent their whole lives perpetually on the run from war. never time to build personhood or sense of self. never time to breathe or catch up.

There will be days when you are similarly on the run. you just won’t know what you’re running from. you will run away from all the people and all the places you cannot seek refuge. there will be days when even living in your body feels this way.

But even when you try to jump out of your skin, our mothers, our women will find ways for us to dance in it.

In my culture, we have a song called the buraanbur, where women stomp their feet and shrug their shoulders after singing poetic praises to brides on their wedding day.

When i lose my way, i will remember that i am the force behind each and every one of these stomps. i will stomp hard and loud and demand attention and take up space and stomp and stomp and stomp.

We are more than the shame we’ve inherited.

I am the daughter of women who’ve held cultures together with their tongues and songs.

Who’ve held entire nations in their arms and cradled them.

Women more godly than Atlas who can hold the world on their shoulders

while still shrugging them

in dance.

by A.A