A Letter Addressed to Me


When I was you, I didn’t understand what it meant to immigrate, the impact it would have on you and me. You left Baghdad, Iraq at age nine, and that particular day has no recollection in your memory. It was all done secretly, as to not raise suspicion among Saddam’s regime. You did not know what was ahead, except for a far away mysterious place which people called the U.S.A.

Although you were a minority in Iraq, a Christian, you didn’t recognize how closely your roots were to its soil, as a Mesopotamian, a Neo-Babylonian. You didn’t imagine you would, in America, learn of your identity and that’s exactly what happened to me.

I never forgot you, your happy and well-balanced childhood. When I left you, you were a shy elementary student in Baghdad who walked to school dressed in a uniform, the sweet silence of the city and the smell of jasmine surrounding you. Twenty years later, I returned to rediscover your footprints. They were everywhere but weren’t as full of the peace and pleasantry of the olden days.

While I was gone, your country had gone through two heart-wrenching wars and nine years of grueling sanctions. Your people were not the same, but rather sad and tired – although nowhere as horribly affected as they are today. I felt guilty to have long ago escaped this cruelty to move to the land of freedom and opportunity.

By the end of my visit I realized you were no longer in that country. You had lived only in my memory. I returned to my home in America and suddenly, I let go of the former reality, of you. But recently you have returned to me, through my daughter, now age three. You and she are so much alike, only she is not as shy as me but rather the opposite, like her father and her outspoken western birth country.

The combination of you and her makes me see my mother in me. When soap suds fill my hands over the kitchen sink or I fry meat and tomatoes in a skillet and serve my husband after he returns from a hard day’s work, I see my past, as I watched my mother over thirty years ago perform. And I realize that despite the generational gap, my mother being 40 years older than I, despite my having a career and my mother being illiterate, despite living in an English speaking Christian country whereas my mother raised you in an Arabic speaking Muslim country, despite me having traveled the world and my mother having barely left the cities of her habitat, a woman is a woman and a daughter is a daughter and a mother is a mother whatever land she’s on, whatever religion constitutes her life, whatever her educational level may or may not be.

Weam Namou’s poetry has appeared on World Literature Today, Mizna, Acumen Literary Journal, PoetsAgainstWar.com, Verbage.com, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Language and Culture, Danse Macabre, Gargoyle, Gloom Cupboard and Lettre Sauvage. She is also the co-founder and president of the Iraqi Artists Association. Visit her here.