As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Aziza Zenobia– Poetry

poem for the outsiders looking in and the insiders needing out

My grandmother used to keep everything in jars.
Labeled with masking tape in scrawling Arabic letters
like calligraphic spiders spinning webs of glass,
strong enough to bind generations.

Here is yellow safran to ward away the jinns
that have nested into your darkest crevices.
Here is enough zam zam water
to soak cous cous treats
and grow mish mish trees.

Here is cumin, brewed for cramps,
that tenth of a moment when you think
the pomegranate stain between your legs
means you are dying,
for when your hymen breaks
playing pirates on a barstool.

This jar is thyme. Brewed in steam,
mixed with a touch of honey,
it’s the perfect cure for heartache.

Newspaper clippings of old revolutions,
jars of earring backs, sugar wax
mint tobacco hookah stacks.

Jars of moments sealed
orbs of third world secrets
dipped in olive oil and
sprinkled with sesame for freshness.

Your granddaughter will try to place herself in these jars.
Secreting secret aspects of her identity
and dripping their essence into each.

This jar is labeled as Syria-sly radical:
argilehs, arguments—a jar of smoke and sweat,
defiant words and youtube streams.

This is the good muslimah jar—hijab wound tight,
iA’s, mA’s, ASA’s, bound by endearing BS
and enough Spirit and Sincerity as a Sprint commercial.

Here is my ex riot grrl punk, with her sweaty sneakers,
angsty stoners and homemade zines,
the shitty guitar squeezing out of the seams.

Here is my Arab jar,
clumps of kinky beards and browning skin,
histories relearned and Nizar Qabanni’s grin.

Here is my queer femme jar,
turned on its side and wrapped in brown paper
so as not for you to see her contents.

Here is my jar with every moment spent
code switching, oppression bitching.

One day I will gather these jars

and release them into the sea.
I will tell my children,
look at the way they mix into each other,
creating muddy rivers of rough brown
until they melt out of their labels,

Fluid collectives of isms, orgasms,
Aha’s, and Allaaahuakbars

Brewed in the sea
to make a perfect Banatea.


Banah Ghadbian HeadshotAziza Zenobia is an exiled Syrian woman raised in the US south. Declared a terrorist by the Syrian regime for releasing a series of videos calling for freedom and justice, she is an activist on accident. She rallies for refugee rights, environmental justice, anti-imperialism, anti-zionism, transnational feminist issues and the eradications of all oppressions. In her free time she creates and sells jewelry, and writes about nonviolent resistance in the Syrian revolution.

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Issue 3February 14th, 2014
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