Salma Mohammad

Grade 12
Fishers, IN
Midwest Region

Salma Mohammad is a Muslim-American born in San Antonio, Texas, to a Palestinian immigrant and an Egyptian immigrant. She currently lives with her four siblings in the white-picket-fence suburb of Fishers, Indiana. Salma’s writing journey began in fifth grade when she wrote a prose poem to cope with having been called a terrorist in the street. Much of Salma’s written and poetic work is derived from navigating her search for identity as a brown, Muslim woman living in America during a time of political turmoil. Growing up, she noticed the lack of representation of female Muslim writers, actors, etc., and got the impression that Muslims did not belong in America or were only worth anything if they were doctors or in other professions deemed “honorable” by the community. She hopes that through her voice, many of the invisible Muslim girls in America and beyond may also find their voices and feel compelled to begin writing their own narratives in America. Her poetry draws on cultural themes of the Middle East and the politics that surrounds it, all of which her parents have felt the effects from.

 

Vitality of the Night
Khan El-Khalili (خان الخليلي) erupted with life at night.
People dressed in all sorts of colored hijabs, turbans, and dishdashas animated the streets alongside neon store signs and bazaars.
In the center of it was a masjid, light up a warm lime, where mounds of people swarmed, stirring around one another like spilled water molecules but quick to organize themselves together as one being for Isha’a prayer.
We were protected from the heat at the hands of the dark garment that clothed the still sky. The sky and breeze quieted itself down to watch the life that the darkness brought through our culture, through my people.
We were the vitality of the night.
The buzz of flutes complemented the drums and tabla that danced to the trudging feet of by passers, young children laughing as zils and bells that hung off shawls ringed with each step into an unconsciously synchronized tune.
Cigarette butts jumping to its vibrations and freckling the dusted floor, scattered stars between the gray rocks.
The breath of hookah suffocating the air, seeping into our pores, but did little to suffocate the smell of the market spices and perfumes.
They lay in large burlap sacks, open for the flies to taste, their vitality shining as pots of gold ready to be taken home and enjoyed.
For now, they lay under the rainbows we have made of our market tents in such a gray world.
Little forts, like the ones of our childhood, outstretched over tables filled with various items. Each market held its own unique items, from silver rings to hanging Persian rugs to food and chips to flowery oil perfumes.
They lined the streets, each store seating two people in front on stout stools, usually sharing a cup of shay (tea) between themselves, or even welcoming customers inside for tea of their own–a common alluring trick that the naïve tourists often fell for.
Yet also a sign of hospitality and family amongst other Egyptians.
Glass cups clinked together as plops of sugar poured into them, uniting every Egyptian as another family member gained, despite bloodline.
But all family came with argument and disagreement.
Voices of bartering people leaked into the cobblestone pathway, the customers, if they knew their items’ worth, often marked down the already low prices of various items, usually got their way.
Carts of food and other items were accompanied by clicking horses and adults yelling their items and prices.
Cats and stray dogs sped off at the sight of yelling children who often chased after them, their frail ribs barely able to keep ahead.
The various people glinted upon the streets as shooting stars.
In synchronization to the music, to each other, like a continuous family connected at the veins through my culture.

    We were the vitality of the night.

Read more of Salma’s Poetry