i have seen my lifeless body. it has its own name that sounds nothing like mine. it lives in the bathroom stall of some restaurant, bloody & left behind. in the ditch down the street from the university, rain falling on its silence. at the bottom of a stairwell, somewhere, sickness finally releasing from the bruised skin.
i imagine my funeral: my mother sobbing herself into an ocean. a shipwreck in the place of my father. behind them, the echoes from everyone who wants me dead. news anchors calling for a muslim genocide. white people burning down all our mosques. thousands in dresden, paris, tel aviv, austin — marching for my extermination.
wouldn’t that be a spectacle? a parade in the place of a burial. i have tried to drown out their voices, but if these people want me dead, they can have this body. i am exhausted. the sky, its perpetual darkness, whispering me into the afterlife. convincing me every pair of cowboy boots comes with a switchblade to the throat. every frat boy can smell my blood. every white person who hears my name wants to tear it from my teeth. all the language made to burn me alive, molded into static—projecting itself across the walls of every room i enter. i am watching the movie of my own execution, over & over, screaming without making a sound.
the jaws of a magnum are always gripping the back of my head. i try to convince myself this fear is irrational. no one cares enough about me to pull the trigger. but the rotting pile of my dead brothers & sisters, scattered across the diaspora, is pleading i run & never come back.
i have to accept the paranoia to avoid the sacrifice. the day i stop being afraid might be the day my body is forsaken of the name it clings to—becomes lifeless.
i am begging for music to staple to my tongue. begging, until i can take the fire gnawing on my skin. the television static wrenching my body apart. the combat boots chanting at my front door. the gunfire carving my future into cracked tombstones. take them all, & turn the noise into an orchestra of light.
a symphony loud enough to swallow all the torches & make my name, make my name into a song. a song that sounds like a burning piano, playing itself in the middle of an empty ballroom. the kind that has been on fire for as long as it can remember.
Adam Hamze is an Arab-American poet and journalist at The University of Texas at Austin. He competed at Brave New Voices 2014, where his team placed eighth. He was the UT poetry team’s slam champ in 2015, which was awarded “Best Writing by a Team” at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational. He has had poems published or forthcoming in The Offing, Radius Lit, and Drunk in a Midnight Choir.