At first, I did not exist. I was not, and then I was.
Someone said “Be!” and I was.
I did not choose this. My mother did not choose this. My father did not choose this.
And yet it happened. I happened. Be!
And I was.
Who decided that I would Be?
To whom did I give my consent
To become that clump of cells, the leech, the clot
I did not have a mouth with which to form words. I did not have a brain
With which to form thought. And yet, I was
Poured into my mother’s womb like honey from the hive
My father’s semen, dumb things, wagging their tails
Obedient drones, flying toward the Queen
At first, I was not, and then I was. Forty-six.
Two became four, four became eight, eight sixteen,
The first atom, encircled by electrons and positrons
Satellites orbiting the center.
Who told them which way to whirl,
Clockwise or counterclockwise,
like pilgrims swarming the four-sided hive
Who wrote the formulae that summoned the cosmos into existence?
Each day I rested in her womb, my mother spun me like Scheherazade spinning
Tales for the sultan to prolong her life.
My mother spun me like a tale to give me life
Each day adding a new chapter to the book.
Hour by hour, day by day I took shape. Alaqa to Mughdah
The leech, the clot gave way to the chewed up piece of meat.
The teeth marks clearly visible, each indentation a grain of rice
We are all chewed-up things, the universe does not differentiate
Between the largest whale (Jonah’s abode) and the smallest spider (Ankabut)
We are all tales waiting to be told.
When it came time for me to be ensouled,
My bones knitting together, my organs taking shape
Muscles clothing the bones, then skin knitting over the muscles
The pain of labor does not compare to the pain of ensoulment
Of being imprisoned in the body: A trap, a snare, a web, a black hole,
The three veils of darkness covering this crime,
Who is its perpetrator?
When it was decided I would be born, it was a violent expulsion, a nakba
Pushed out from the womb with blood and sweat,
I crossed the waters of my mother’s amniotic fluid in a leaky boat
Made a refugee, I was an immigrant into this world.
Forgetting the darkness, I remember only that I do not belong here,
this body, this life is only a holding cell.
I am here for reasons I cannot fathom, at the will of one whom I do not know
At the mercy of those who do not know what they did
To deserve me.
Yet I was not, before, and now I am, and
Now, bereft, blind, wordless and helpless, I am here,
And now what do I do? Without knowing why, I struggled to be here, yet
Nobody is ashamed at what has been wrought upon me
Even the sword feels shame when it is asked to behead the innocent.
A poem inspired by the passage of the anti-abortion law in Alabama. This poem utilizes imagery in Islam that describes the conception and development of a fetus in the womb.