The Freedom You Want

14 March, 2021

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Mohja Kahf

The Freedom You Want


“Freedom?” the doctor mutters
over the wounded protester
“Is this the freedom you want?”
without anesthetic   without permission
slicing her belly
The doctor is a Baath Party member
and the hospital belongs to the state
But she is a human being
and words belong to her
Outside her window the president
on a billboard says “Freedom
is being safe from terrorists”
On my screen the dissident of another country
who has never set foot in Syria
yips “Freedom in Syria is just code
for imperialist intervention”
I used to believe him
until I let her
guide my hand across her bellyscar


Mohja Kahf, professor of comparative literature and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Arkansas since 1995, is author of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, Hagar Poems, E-mails from Scheherazad, and Western Representations of the Muslim Woman: From Termagant to Odalisque. Some of her writing has been translated to Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Urdu, Japanese, Italian, German, and French. Her book, My Lover Feeds Me Grapefruit, won the 2020 Press 53 Award for Poetry. Kahf is a winner of the Pushcart Prize and an Arkansas Arts Council Individual Artist award. Kahf competed in the 1999 National Poetry Slam on Team Ozarks alongside the late Brenda Moossy. A founding member of the Radius of Arab American Writers, Kahf served on the board of the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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