noor jaber



نور/noo͝ r/noun/arabic word for/light/linguistic root of/noura

i was born heiress to moonlight
over mountains. in arab writing
the night is a blessing/an almost-holy
relief from the heat of summer
burning lighter complexions
in its bright/i used to dream the night sky

drenched me indigo.
in those dreams, my dark graced
the sweltering forehead
of my father’s homeland. to be half-black in lebanon
is to have both inheritances ripped from my skin

in arab writing, my name
is asmareh. eyes like almonds/squint. blur
dark girl, and fear of the dark. blur
antiblack/and me,
black. i was born able to let sunlight fill me.

i catch it
without being burned. its warmth stroking
my shoulders, like a mother dancing
at the reunion. my brown
-kissed face, the thank you note.

and isn’t that something to celebrate?
that i can bathe in my inheritance
of light because of my dark skin? is there no magic in that?
is it not bitter-
sweet that my arab name could only be realized
by blackness?

Mixed Tape

نور/noo͝ r/noun/arabic word for/light/linguistic root of/my name

Too many
poems have waged war
in the crevices
of my mouth and emerged
wearing teeth
and tongue as spoils of battle.
I have written the poems

in which my blood waters too many
          roots at once in which my blood
          spreads too thin in which mixed race
          is a two-way colonizer

still trying to conquestblackkbird_kerry_hugill_illustration_mouth_01
this body. Today the blood
-stains on my hands are too jumbled
to separate.

Today, I write the poem of collard greens and hummus
and the way all my people fry fish.
Today I write of العربغليزية
a word invented
to mash english
and arabic

into a cacophony
of joyous, ridiculous

          syllables – I’m ridiculous,
          really. I’m the remix left

          i declare
          that there is no overlap here,
          that I am an entity emanating
          a new kind of light.

i mean, you could say i’m resentful

but why didn’t i get
the eyebrows? someone told me once
you can spot a Lebanese woman
from the way her eyebrows fan
into a subtle peacock’s tail.486019-a1ea034f6aed4f08ad13fb2050330c75
right at the spot
where they reach for each other across the bridge of her nose.
have i not earned those feathers?

Fairouz is the most famous Lebanese singer
i can think of right now. her voice cascaded
from the speakers at every wedding
i’ve been to. i couldn’t dance dabke very well
like the other flower girls

i dance like a white girl hahahaha folks
say i talk white, too. i say i learned
57358219502953-562db84208fc5to mold my tongue to the walls of a room long ago
& the code switch just gets stuck sometimes.

in 11th grade the SAT asked what race am i?
which is to say it asked which weathered branch
of family tree i’d like to rip off today: do you listen
to Biggie on your ipod or Fairouz?
i answered Black first because

i never finished learning Arabic.

when i speak the accent is sticky

too much رمانرب

(pomegranate molasses)
i guess it’s a little like table syrup.

not as sweet though.

i heard a mashup of Fairouz and Biggie
the other day. i couldn’t find it again
no matter how hard i looked.


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