Silence by Janine Mogannam

because she is a girl / because she will one day be a woman
she is raised in silence / with silence / in preparation for the future
because she is born into a fog that coaxes her hair / her heart heavenward
because in this country of her birth whiteboys spit hate like wads of paper through straws
their eyes tiny as seeds / leaving her choking    voiceless    shrinking
from the sounds of her parents' language / its curvature & song reduced
to short rasps & hard snaps to her tired ears
because there is nowhere in the world she has lived
where she hasn’t lived with the fear of identity making her conspicuous /
with the fear that she will utter an incorrect phrase / a forbidden word / a palace a tiny
world inside of her / words scratching under skin & bones that stand to break
if the colors you fly match to earth / trees / blood / sky if you dare
to make desire known / question fate / scream a song of yourself loud enough for anyone
to hear / dare to have an i that is your own / to call this country / any country home
because there is nowhere that feels safe
her daughter of fire will search for the words to express the sparks inside her
& will always be reaching through silence
for her mother’s words


Contributor Notes

i am a second-generation san franciscan and three-year voices of our nations workshop alum working on my first book of poetry. “silence” is one of a collection of poems about the literal and figurative silencing of women both real and fictional, transcending time, place and culture. this poem is dedicated to women navigating the fragile state of split identities, and the legacies of silencing these experiences can birth.