tazahar

Ghinwa Jawhari

(pretend; تظاهر)

what a doll i was those years after the towers
fell. i went blonde as one goes insane, womaned
with a new name, an easy olio for the tongues

that tsk'd me. gone were the guttural
consonants, the hairs connecting my brows.
i starved my hips. i wore english like a ring

until men begged my father for my hand.
i detached my hand & gave it to him, a fishing
lure. a prophet arrived to open the leaves of me.

his cat-tongue barbed for bone. we pilgrimaged
after the fete, as if we had land to return to.
we spoke of the city as our parents

knew it: beirut's 60s, glistening
bodies destined for martyrdom,
radio static, glass bottles of pepsi.

we uttered only words we knew
sang only songs we remembered.
everyday i used the wrong type of rice.

we decorated our home in tourist flags.
a blue eye hung over our door,
reflecting the eyes of the street.

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Photo of Ghinwa Jawhari

Ghinwa Jawhari is a Lebanese American writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She was born to Druze parents in Cleveland, OH. Her chapbook BINT was selected by Aria Aber for Radix Media’s Own Voices Chapbook Prize. Her essays, fiction, and poetry appear in Catapult, Narrative, Mizna, The Adroit Journal, and others. Ghinwa is a 2021 Margins Fellow at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

"Dedicated to ‘the girls,’ BINT revolves around the intricate and violent wounds of girlhood. In concise and muscular poems, the author’s vision shines clear as a prism: she sings of lost places, of the body’s frail and wondrous secrets. I was immediately taken with this marvelous voice.”
—Aria Aber, Hard Damage

“Ghinwa Jawhari writes an elegy for girlhood in the diaspora, ‘its tightly wound calamities, its fears.’ Each poem is a spare song that asks: ‘when will you shake that trespass, / the sense you belong elsewhere?’ Longing permeates the landscapes of these poems, rises up from bodies and cities and inherited memory. This is a truly remarkable debut.”
—Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, Water & Salt

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