Webster’s Dictionary: a poem

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Webster’s Dictionary: a poem

By RUAA LABANIEH
Staff Writer

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(Rick Thornton/Macon Telegraph/TNS)
I see myself defined by the anti-terrorist sentiments reflected in the news,
by the man’s face wrapped in a traditional turban,
worn for all the wrong reasons as he speaks
with broken and accented English.
I see myself defined by justified yet misplaced resentment,
by the man’s trembling and destructive fists,
directed towards the innocent
in the name of the lord I identify with.

I see myself defined by what I wear on my head,
by the words “oppressed” and “ignorant” which are forced through one ear,
and take years for me to bully them out the other,
with my mother’s reassurance and my father’s pride.
I see myself defined by my conservative clothing,
by the layer over layer used to cover my extensive skin,
unexposed to the tanning sunrays, never subject to a man’s desire,
in the name of the modesty I identify with.

I see myself defined by what I can and cannot do,
by the “UD” sign on Jello and the “K” for kosher on granola bars,
searching through the menu for chicken
as the waiter points out the pork.
I see myself defined by the shortcuts past the wine aisle,
by the non-alcoholic beverage label on apple cider
while people try to describe the freedom they receive
from the satisfying bottle I refused
in the name of the religion I identify with.

I see myself silhouetted by the woman in the mirror,
by her puzzled eyes and furrowed, thick eyebrows
associated with her family’s heritage–as she’s heard countless times.
I see myself defined by the words she speaks,
by her actions and the places her feet take her,
then slowly, by the curve of her lips, when she smiles,
having finally recognized the falsehoods of others’ definitions.
It is with my own definition, not just that of the woman in the mirror, that I choose to explain myself.

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