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I as in Iraq and Immigrating

by Yuan Changming

“I” as in Iraq

To begin with
The hieroglyphical origin of
My identity was simply nothing
But a common reed
Bowing its head to the rising sun
On the barren bank of the Nile

Slim, tall, hollow-hearted
Standing against tropical heat
Until one day “I” was used
As a human symbol, an open vowel
Referring to the speaker
And since then I have become
One of the most frequently spelt letters
In the linguistic order of the day
Always capitalized
To embody my dignity
Though I am nothing
But a common reed
That could have been made into a flute.


Walking around
around the corner of a back lane
I used to carry my Iraqi identity
as carefully as if it were a big piece
of glass, through which I could see
others or myself, only if I chose
to do so, but on a hasty afternoon
I tripped down, and
smashed it into hundreds of
small and sharp pieces; since then
my shredded selfhood has become a big
public nuisance, a traffic hazard
as it glistens glaringly under the sun, cutting
tires or human feet, from time to time.


All artwork is courtesy of Rana Ashraf.

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