The ink has rubbed from her copies
of Canopus in Argos, Gravity and Grace.
She reads verses from The Second Sex,
ad libs stress and pitch and tone
until this petite English imam,
crescendos with her very own
iqra bismi rabbika:

“One is not born, but rather
becomes, a woman.”

She scolds her brothers for their sins;
parties, smoking, hip hop,
hides their razors in the morning
in case they forget the beard is fard,
along with the thobe – the dress
for men. They nod like toy heads,
knowing she will tell them:

“To lose confidence in one’s body
is to lose confidence in oneself.”

Then there’s the daily invite
to amble publicly where the broad
daylight smacks against the jet black
burqa. She knows her little boys fear
people will think they made her.
And now to their unspoken mantra
If only they could see her face

if only they knew her.