Rima Refuses the Question, April 8, 2012

A silhouetted figure holds up red flag with words in Arabic in white beneath a stylized moon
Saad Merie / DeviantArt

to Rima Dali, with love

Rima Dali in her red raincoat reaches
downtown Damascus, silently
steps into the intersection
stands tall as traffic
holds high a red banner:
stop the killing
we want to build a country
for all syrians
Women hike handbags
up their shoulders to clap
for this theater which has no spectators,
only actors who act in the drama of their lives at last
Two hulks in dark glasses
take Rima by the elbows. Unused
to uncertainty, they ask, “Which
side are you?” “Revolution or regime?”
Reversing the flow of power,
Rima rejects the binary,
answering only “ana suriyeh,”
“I’m a Syrian (woman)”
Something invisible becomes the new axis
of power in the intersection
that spring
in Syria,
and it is indestructible

Photo © Wendi LaFay

Mohja Kahf’s second book of poetry, Hagar Poems, was published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2016. Her novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, was published in 2006. Kahf is a professor of comparative literature and Middle East studies at the University of Arkansas.