Teen Sequins 2020, Day 1: Sarah Fathima Mohammed, Age 14

Wounded Body 
  
When I am ten, my grandmother squeezes my flabby
 stomach with small, raisined hands. This is the closest 
  
 we have been. I am taught a woman should 
 keep her distance before marriage, save touch 
  
 like thirst and wait for a man’s mouth to drink 
 from. In the communal harvest shed behind 
  
 the village huts, my grandmother 
 wraps black fabric over my white kurti. 
  
 It billows at my waist like a breath. 
 Spreads over my ­­­chest as hands gasping 
  
 open, white petals. Burka stretching over
 my lips as another mouth. This is a body
  
 close enough to kiss. I have never felt anything 
 more human. I imagine that my grandmother birthed 
  
 this burka from her own stomach—fabric dousing her womb
 in darkness, coming out as flesh. Shaped like a fist. 
  
 In Tamil, wound and body share the same word. 
 Meaning that the body is only another way 
  
 to hurt. Meaning that I am a scab that is not capable
 of healing. Swollen thighs. Mouth purple 
  
 at the edges. I confess: I want this burka 
 to swallow me like a river. Drench me
  
 in salve until I’m sputtering. Bandage 
 this wound. If this burka is another body, 
  
 it is a better one. My grandmother whispers 
 that my body is too sacred to remove the burka. 
  
 I mistake the word sacred for scared. My body is not 
 the altar, only the meat that has been placed on it, sacrificed
  
 in all the wrong ways. I will drape this fabric
 over me like a corpse, hide inside it as a remedy. 
 ­­ 

Sarah Fathima Mohammed is a brown, Muslim-American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work appears or is forthcoming in DIALOGIST,  Diode, Apprentice Writer, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Poetry Society of the UK, and the National Poetry Quarterly’s Editors’ Choice Prize, among others. When she is not writing, she serves as managing editor for The Aurora Review and genre editor for Polyphony Lit.  

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