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Seattle Participants

Nancy Peacock


Seattle Participants

Nancy Peacock

Three Times I Have Been Muslim

First day of Kindergarten, my father makes sure
I double-knot my shoelaces,
walks me to my class, gives me two pieces
of advice: Do what your teacher tells you
and Say you can't eat pork for religious reasons.
He didn't tell me what religion,
so all year my classmates thought
the Chinese girl was Jewish
and I wasn't sure myself.

My mother had been watching the news:
hate crimes against Arab Americans rising,
university students protesting the Gulf War.
She called me at my dorm:
I can't stop you from protesting, but
don't tell anyone you're Muslim.

The Chinese Koran in my parents' house
is tucked behind potboilers on the shelf,
a tapestry of an unnamed city with a black box
hangs in the study.
My mother's aunts still cover their hair in China,
she colors hers black, defiant in her beauty,
until she remembers that she is hiding something too.

I, who have only occasionally been Muslim,
do not know grafitti on my place of worship,
have never driven a cab to a hostile street corner,
have never feared to buy groceries
because of the cloth I wear on my head.
Mosques in America are burning. 
The Chinese Koran sits on its shelf in a language
I cannot read.
Today, I saw a picture in a book,
and it was of the Kabbah, Sacred Mosque of Mecca
and I realized that the city and the black box both have names,
but it is too late the tapestry is unravelling,
bright colors melting as if on fire.
Will the resting place of my mother and father
burn?  Their warnings are urgent
the only doctrine I know.
                               -Diana Ma

Fatu's Cooking

My neighbor skims milk in moonlight,
her babies sleep to her laugh.
An old Pa cries "Women and Snakes!" at us
but my Fula girlfriend only charms rice
from husk in her palm-weave basket.
I eat from her plate, I eat from
her hand, with a dab
of cow butter beside.  We sit half the night
on my Peace Corps chop box
while moon glides over
                          -Kelly Riggle Hower

"A poem can bring peace"
a pleasant thought indeed.

In childhood,
I accepted language's power.
I knew words could hurt.
So why not let them heal?

Now, full-grown, I've lost touch
with that faith.
Others carry on, their dictionaries
filled with meaning.

Trapped in a downward spiral
the world is again at war.
Body piled on body with
no end in sight.

Whose bizarre encryption
defies my childhood dream
that a poem can bring peace!
                          Abe Schweid


in Seattle, WA.      
Monday 18 March 2002
Seattle Public Library, University Branch
hosted by
It's About Time Writers Reading Series
In conjuction with: