Poem: A conversation with racism

"Muslim, a dirty word."

By Carina Milena Maceira

This poem was inspired by real events.

confronted the other day by a tight sleeved suit and an expensive smile

all musty yet charming, of course racism still wears shoulder pads.

“child, do you remember me?”

eyes closed, I smelled chocolate chip pancakes

and tasted lemonade on my tongue.

the diner we were walking towards

when the old Chevy decided it would rather be a gun

and took his shot at us.

mama all full moon and ready before we decided Adam

was the least hateful name we could introduce to the world.

my father’s knee never buckled.

my father’s knee, under a white dishdasha that never buckled,

like his smile never faltered,

when the neighborhood boys used to come up to him,

hands sticky from ice cream,

all of the south in them,

they would ask “sir, why you look like Jesus?”

racism glides his hand over my knee

and I remember Florida’s humidity,

plastic jelly sandals swaying just above the pile of glass

under a little girl’s 3rd grade desk her teacher refused to have cleaned up.

Muslim, a dirty word.

he slips his hand into his breast pocket and offers me a cigarette.

he laughs as I choke up on memories.

I guess it’s easier the more obvious it is,

but I’m willing to bet there’s still hate in indifference.

like that time Zainab refused to eat at the same table with us

and I was eight years too young to understand why.

cowardice in ignorance, like all the things Mohammed

used to say about my father when he’d leave the room.

still lethargic carelessness in a dismissive patronizing tone when the officer

said “haram to press charges on the girl, your sister can still walk. you

should let it go…”

under versus over and I would’ve lost my sister

in front of a rundown Starbucks

and lazy road lines that had faded under the heat of this land.

he takes a drag, chokes on his laughter unashamed.

how many things have I lost because of you? because of this land?

this country and it’s suffocating borders that makes me show up,

sit down,

and smile but never receive a warm welcome.

whatever happened to intrinsic value? did they confiscate it at the terminal

before I ever realized racism was hardly ever the stranger,

the lurking shadow,

the predatory catcall?

it was the tight smiles,

hushed voices,

and side eye from familiar faces too.

it was privilege and all its extended relatives and even their ex-wives.

racism comes in all shapes and sizes.

back home it was spit at my feet and a bat that took Nabra’s life…

here, it mostly only ever takes my voice, my ability to love.

here it is only ever a reminder:

no matter how many languages your parents speak,

there will always be someone in the room who thinks you don’t belong,

much less deserve to exist .

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.

Carina Milena Maceira is a 20-year-old Cuban-Colombian poet and teacher. She grew up in America, primarily raised by her Kuwaiti family, adding to her multicultural identity that often shows in her creative expression. She is the founding editor of Ink & Oil Magazine, and an active performer in the Kuwait Poets Society. Her work has been published in Hooligan Magazine, The Miami Chronicles and Yes Poetry.