Mohja Kahf

Mohja Kahf Poems

"You people have such restrictive dress for women,"
she said, hobbling away in three inch heels and panty hose
to finish out another pink-collar temp pool day.

You dress strange," said a tenth-grade boy with bright blue hair
to the new Muslim girl with the headscard in homeroom,
his tongue-rings clicking on the "tr" in "strange".

My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,

These last few days were the most beautiful
I ever lived, my friends. For the first time
in our lives spent under martial law,

No, I'm not bald under the scarf
No, I'm not from that country
where women can't drive cars

Her legs plump in tights under a dainty skirt
—little girls are such fun for mothers to dress—
she lies splayed on the floor,
a mass of red flesh and nerves spilling from her neck.

Out in the blue infinitude
that reaches and touches us
sometimes, Hajar and Sarah
and Abraham work together


Don't turn from me because of what you see
Shall I release the doves for you?
They're in my pockets with the rabbits
Believe in the existing but unseen

You, shoulders hunched on cots in prison cells tonight,
you whose bodies are bound in rubber tires
or hung by meat hooks (for bludgeoning),
you who are dragged to torture tables by your hair,

She will be your wild mare
at night, but in the day
she'll blush if you glimpse a nipple
through her blouse & look away

I had not expected love but it surprised,
like the slip of arm around my waist
I had expected chiding, but your eyes
spoke only kindness, like your face

Mohja Kahf Biography

Mohja Kahf (born 1967, Damascus, Syria) is an Arab-American poet and author. Kahf moved to the United States in 1971. Her family has been involved in Syrian opposition politics, a theme reflected in the life of her character Khadra of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf. She received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Rutgers University and is currently an associate professor of comparative literature and faculty member of the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Kahf's work explores themes of cultural dissonance and overlap between Muslim-American and other communities, both religious and secular. Islam, morality, modesty, gender and gender-relations, sexuality, politics, and especially identity are important aspects of her work. Her first book of poetry, E-mails From Scheherazad, was a finalist for the 2004 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her novel The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf was chosen as Booksense Reading Group Favorite for June 2007; as book of the year for the One Book, One Bloomington Series by the Bloomington Arts Council, Monroe County Public Library, Bloomington, Indiana, 2008; and as required summer reading for incoming first-year students at the College of Notre Dame, Baltimore, Maryland, 2008.)

The Best Poem Of Mohja Kahf

Hijab Scene 2

"You people have such restrictive dress for women,"
she said, hobbling away in three inch heels and panty hose
to finish out another pink-collar temp pool day.

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