Back to Issue Thirty-Seven


(pretend; تظاهر)

2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry – Finalist


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.



over & overnight

2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry – Finalist


for your temper, your loud mouth, your mother hit you

but reeled back before impact.
a man you didn’t know left

his belt across your thighs. the ER physician asked
if you were happy at home, safe. you were not at home

in his country. you were not safe
in yours. you watched a stillbirth

in a shelter. outside, a blitz of shells. nine months
of names lost. her husband clutched the wet
thing to his chest & heaved until the ceasefire.

above you, the earth was upturned,
red as afterbirth. you had no children

of your own. you wondered what happens when child
is martyr, how mother becomes country over & over
night. a man who didn’t know you said “keep that arab

temper at home” before his scalp broke
the bottle you threw. there is no home

to go back to, to leave things in. your mother was afraid
this would happen. war is a bloodhound sniffing bodies
out of first world rubble. you never wanted any trouble.



ugly summer

2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry – Finalist


i exchanged the tight bikini for gym shorts & dropped
my shirtless body like a coin into the pool. all summer

my mother kept our hair chopped in uneven bowls.
the lifeguards could not distinguish between me

& my dark male cousins: a set of sunken chests,
soft child bellies, soda-tinted mustaches. i lent

quarters & bought pistachios for the boys. i felt
rich, felt my father’s generosity spoiling me, felt

my mother’s indifference. i screamed while cannon-
balling, tiptoed to sleeping women & snapped

their suits in the shade. i ran to our bench & nudged
my mother’s hand with the sunscreen tube. under

her palms i writhed. she asked what i’d done
to my bathing suit. she touched her thumbs to

my unibrow, my weak chin. that most beautiful summer,
i was the most unbeautiful i would ever be: bony almost-

boy. sun-poisoned by august. shoulders peeling to pink.
in a dream, i revisit & watch through the chain-link fence:

my small shivering form, its wrinkled fingers reaching
for a familiar towel, pockets heavy with my father’s change.



Ghinwa Jawhari is a Lebanese American writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a 2021 Margins Fellow at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Her debut chapbook ‘BINT’ was selected by Aria Aber for the Own Voices Chapbook Prize, and is out now from Radix Media. Her work appears in CatapultMiznaNarrative, and others. More at

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