After 9/11, they stitched patriotism into our spines
and slapped away our fingers when we tried to touch
the incision site. We were only fourth grade nothings,
still malleable, so we learned to heal around shrapnel splinters
by always expecting that brown hands on a bomb
would dismantle us.
Now every year, we observe silence
and candlelight vigils and reinforce the stereotype
that Muslims are all terrorists;
they are still swatting away our fingers
when we try to needle them under these stitches.
9/11 was not a surgery I elected to have,
is not a bruise that I need you to keep bumping
against the nightstand; is not scar tissue
for my lover to run his fingers over,
to sigh over, and tell me I’m still
When I was nine years old, I learned to be afraid
of airplane hijackers, of bombs hidden under trench coats.
They fed me fear and kept me hungry.
At twenty-five, I travel for pleasure. I cannot
continue to be afraid of the dark like my pre-pubescent self.
I cannot continue to let my breath catch in my throat
when the woman in the hijab smiles at me.
I smile back. This war on terror was beaten into us and
I will not break again.
I stand at ground zero, run my scarred fingers
over the names of lives lost; it is a somber exhibit,
where the masses of emotional tourists dab tears
from their eyes with their crumpled tissues
And I try to resist the urge to rip my spine
from my body.
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