Poetic Voices: “Where Is Home” By Lama Ahmed

Where is Home?   

Whenever I meet someone new the same conversation unfolds…
WHere are you from; where is home?
To which I reply in the simplest terms: I am Arab.
Wow, your English is so good, though… how come?

And with this question, my tongue is paralyzed, heavy with anger
I struggle to explain: what do I say?
It starts with colonization and then displacement then immigration.
Does that answer the question?

I have been on more flights than road trips.
And not by will.
When I speak in my native language my tongue trips.
Cultures bleed into one another, languages overlap.
I lose my mother tongue’s wisdom.
I lose the capacity to natively speak
But not my will.

A load of responsibility and my tongue fails to carry
It’s weight.
An Arabic linguistic tradition passed on from Arabia
Granted to me from my ancestors. A tree I was supposed to
care for and keep alive, wilting into the Western English that colonizes my tongue.
But, the river of calligraphy and Naho is still running down my bloodline.
A weight of responsibility to keep the Arab in me alive.
But kids like me journey from the colonizer’s language
to their mother tongue in one single sentence.

When I do call Jeddo on the phone I struggle…
I start with the “Marhaba, keefak Jeddo” and fail to carry the Arabic forward
I can hear myself unable to find the words that translate from
My colonized mind to his rich Arabic understanding.
I search for the words in my head, he can hear me choking up and I can hear the disappointment in his breath.
He waits for me to find my roots again, a long sigh is released.
I have let him down.
A white fog clouding my brain
weighing down my tongue.
This is the manifold of displacement and colonization.

From the pyramids to the Aqsa Mosque my bloodline travels.
Yet, I feel like a foreigner in my indigenous land;
A foreigner in my house;
A foreigner in my skin.

My heart is always heavy with disappointment and confusion.
A stranger has called me out on my façade
A stranger has called out my wilting leaves and dry roots.
I sit in shame, I sit in displacement.

So, where is home, you ask?
Do you mean my bloodline, current location, where I grew up?
Because these are all different homes, losses and confusions
I am the manifold of belonging and alienation.