at home

Eds. Note: This powerful poem was inspired by @ImPalestine’s tweet: “I look forward to surviving. If I don’t, remember that I wasn’t Hamas or a militant, nor was I used as a human shield. I was at home.”

like you were at home/
making a taco or kissing your aunt on the cheek
worrying about being childless at 35
when the roof was blown off

like I was at home
thinking about the students I teach
the one with no mother who always asks me
what I am mixed with
the one with clumps of grease in her hair
and long stilt legs who asks me for my email address
and smiles at me for no reason sometimes
what if she was gone?

What if she yelled but no one heard her
over the ambush of sound and bodies
the smoke choking the streets
the blood funneling through drains

we are just little girls with questions
wanting our mothers to pick us up
we are just single mothers without enough money
to buy a hamburger for our children
we are grandfathers with bad legs and whiskey smiles
we are grandmothers working at a donut shop
with pasty hands and glazed eyes
we are dark haired and dark-skinned people in a traffic jam
on the 110
at an Israeli checkpoint trying to go to the doctor
or have a baby
we are Aleya and Malik
our father was choked to death on a street corner
by plain clothes cops laughing that he couldn’t breathe

our mother was making baklava when fire
charred her hair and froze her hot
our brothers were watching that Drake video on youtube
our sisters were modeling with their shirts up
in the mirror and smearing lip gloss on their fingers
our spirits were dancing
while the killing was going
until it was us
at home

Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. She is a 2007 graduate of UC Berkeley, and also attended Howard University’s MFA Film Program, where she was the recipient of the 2009 Paul Robeson Award for Best Feature Screenplay. She is a 2013 dual-degree graduate of Calarts’ MFA Film Directing and Writing programs; the only student in the institute to graduate with this distinction. Her short film Two Bodies has screened at festivals across the country, including the Pan African Film Festival, Outfest, and Newfest at Lincoln Center. Her writing appears in the critically acclaimed anthology, “Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.” She also writes for Shadow and Act on the Indiewire Network, and Bitch Magazine. She is a recipient of the 2012 Princess Grace Foundation Cary Grant Film Award for her thesis film, Deluge, which had its world premiere at the 4th Annual New Voices in Black Cinema Film Festival at BAMcinematek in March 2014. She was recently selected to participate in the 2nd Annual Sundance Screenwriters Intensive with her script, Noor. She is currently in development on two feature films.