Mohja Kahf’s ‘Holding Fatima in the Light,’ written for Fatima Mughlaaj, Syria, September 16, 2012, was originally published on Dr. Kahf’s Facebook page and is republished here with permission.
By Mohja Kahf
Her legs plump in tights under a dainty skirt
—little girls are such fun for mothers to dress—
she lies splayed on the floor,
a mass of red flesh and nerves spilling from her neck.
Four dead children and two dead adults crowd the video
of a home in rubble from shelling by a regime bent
on rooting out rebellion.
i. do. Not. Look. at the photo of the little girl decapitated,
but she is there when I shut my eyes.
I beg it to be a lie. Photoshopped by a liar
who thinks lying helps the revolution.
Then I am told that tonight, in Kafr Uwayed village,
a father is rattling up one street and down another,
shrieking, “Has anyone seen my daughter’s head?
Have you seen her head? My little girl’s head, if anyone
has seen it, if you find it, please, return her head to me.”
It’s a tradition in Syrian villages, the shout
in public places for lost children, one of the last freedoms
of civic speech not erased in forty-nine years
of absolute rule. Never before has it been used
to find lost body parts of dead children.
That we should live to hear such sentences.
That we should live—
Around the globe, the people talk of geopolitics.
There are many talking heads,
but none of them are the head we want,
the one that should matter
above all endgames. I want
to live in that world, where the little girl’s head matters,
matters more than movies, more than politics,
more than religion, more than anything,
where what is missing above that tangle of bloodied nerves,
is the gap that stops every sentence, every gunshot, is unthinkable.
Have you found the little girl’s head, have you shut
your mouth and stopped your steps, to help,
to bless, to hold in your heart at least one thought for its finding.
Have you. Have you. Have you. Have you—
Poet and scholar Mohja Kahf was born in Damascus, Syria. Her family moved to the United States in 1971, and Kahf grew up in the Midwest. She earned a PhD in comparative literature from Rutgers University and is the author of the poetry collection Emails from Scheherazad (2003) and the novel The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (2006).