After I left, I would unroll my ‘r’s every morning,
train my letters to lie flat against the bottom of my mouth.
I would smoothen out every syllable,
soften my ‘s’s and speak in a slow drawl.
I would practice my ‘p’s in the bathroom mirror,
careful not to crack it with my accent.
I would rinse the guttural ‘d’ out with mouth wash
and force myself to love the emptiness between my teeth.
Before I left, I would recite Darwish every evening,
and watch my teta fall to the floor five times a day in devotion.
She told me Arabic is the mother of poetry,
counted her prayer beads ninety nine times a night with our names.
She painted pictures of Jerusalem’s olive trees,
showed us the scar she carries on her wrist from a broken fence.
Two weeks after I left she died of a collapsed lung
and since then my tongue has become a foreign entity.
I’ve forgotten how to make it speak of her.
‘Seven Years of Silence’ was published in 2016 as part of the UEA Undergraduate Creative Writing Anthology, Undertow.