Khadijah Queen

Any Other Name

Any Other Name

Khadijah means wife of the prophet.
Nothing about my name
is casual. Your mouth has to
make an effort. You have to commit
to all eight letters, all three syllables,
no nickname. It means something

Uber drivers, the Muslim ones,
all men, want to tell me about
even after I say yes when they ask
do I know. They want to know
how old I am and where I'm from
they want to get in my business

where is my husband. Some men
can't stop telling me who I am or what
exactly is so incredible about me or
what they had to take or offer
without asking. They still say

it's my fault I am beautiful. I was raised
as a Muslim. In the name of Allah
Most Gracious Most Merciful shouldn't I
thank God for the kind of beauty
that makes me so desirable an object

so in demand by strangers
you might say my name cursed me
to solitude. I don't see any prophets around,
do you? If so, pass out my number
tell him I said what's up

where have you been all my life. I know it's a line
but people like familiar things
like fellow boring straight people hey
I'll be 44 in a few years and I have a tradition
to live up to a prophecy perhaps. Chop chop.

I cut off my hair because I wanted to
begin again with something on my body
no man has touched. I wanted to press
rewind. I still want the kind of purity that cures
men of acculturated entitlement. I want a little
silence when I walk down the street or get into the back
seat of a hired car in any city I travel to. Maybe

I have to marry myself. Maybe I am my own prophet.
I want to stop reacting and keep creating
and to do that maybe I need a new kind of hijab
that makes me safer unseen, free of both

sound and adornment. I could use that
kind of safety. Sartre said hell is
other people and by the token of time through the ages,
surely a French philosopher knows
whether man equals less than desire and surely

man is in loss, except those who do good
works, and enjoin one another to the truth, and enjoin
one another to patience and constancy. My mother told me
I should keep some things to myself.
She should have said keep yourself to yourself

but it was in her nature to be generous.
I learned that kind of giving
leads to further taking and it's a light that attracts
parasites. What's an ex-Muslim girl to do

keep praying. The world of prophets is elite.
They don't just let anyone in, lol not wives
and sometimes I want to cut myself out
of all possible institutional pictures. Sometimes I am in
a collage I made myself and I have
a new name. I have a name
I have given myself and I'm the only one who knows
what it means. But that doesn't make sense
Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim

like the first time I was taken from myself
my father asked me what I learned
and that is what I learned. I learned I had no father
but I could walk in the rain and let my hair rise up
in the night become a black halo aaameeeeeeeeeeen
curling closer to my head as if to love it, softly

greeting as if saying peace be unto me. A man
can break you with your own love if you don't
remember who you are among the nonbelievers.
All praises due to the part of me that listens to herself
first. The first time I drew a rose I couldn't stop

layering in new petals. My small right hand
filled the flimsy newsprint with red Crayola
spirals, the lines unbroken, the endless making
as sweet as being out of the order
other people like to think you are born to.

Khadijah Queen

Khadijah Queen is the author of four books, most recently Fearful Beloved (Argos Books 2015). In 2015, The Relationship theater company staged her verse play, Non-Sequitur, in NYC as part of the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers, with publication by Litmus Press. Individual poems appear in Brooklyn Magazine, Tin House, Fence, jubilat, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks from Vietnam to Iraq, and widely in other journals and anthologies. Her fifth book, I'm So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On, will be published by YesYes Books in spring 2017.