Image description: two silhouettes of human heads - side profile - are in the forefront of the image, overlapping. The silhouette on the right has 'identity' written in it and the left has 'crisis' written in it.]
This month's reader submission comes from Heba Khalid.
She describes it as 'A poem, mostly about belonging, going back to a homeland that doesn't feel or treat you like a homeland anymore. Hence the feeling like a foreigner even though you're really going back 'home' scenario. It's also about being 'westernised', or at least outwardly appearing more western than before. '
When the foreigner comes home
there are security checks at the airport.
They rifle through your bag,
only to find a camera that shames you
a memory that fails you
a passport maroon with the blood of your people (who are your people?)
stamped with discontent as they let you pass; you are one of them now.
A tourist in a city that was once yours
you wander because you are lost;
the map you carved in your mind is a mishmash of nostalgia
they have built buildings since then, moved on since then
and you are buried somewhere,
in foundations that groan under the weight of a thousand corpses like yours.
No one asks about you anymore;
they only laugh at the identity you have bought for yourself
the way your skin decides to burn rather than glow under the sun
the way you mispronounce your name so that it eases unseasoned mouths that cannot twist and turn like your mother’s.
You scratch away colour
hide under palm trees rather than with them
drown the bitter mother tongue with honey.
It’s no use,
you can’t get your words out like you used to.
So, the sands,
don’t recognise you;
they fasten a glare
become a force of nature, not a home
starvation becomes a danger
they whisper the same words your grandmother sewed onto your ripped jeans:
‘you don’t belong here anymore’.