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“Cher moi” by Afra Atiq

Afra Atiq is an Emirati award-winning poet, having won the ADMAF Creativity Award in 2017. She has been featured on national and international platforms. Afra proudly gives back to her community through mentorships and workshops. Afra has a passion for education and has been a featured speaker at numerous universities and schools, in addition to winning multiple poetry competitions. As a scholar, Afra has recently been published in the International Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Sciences and conducted social research specific to literature and reading habits in the UAE. Technically, she holds a master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy, and is pursuing a PhD at UAE University —however, performing poetry takes center stage in her life.

Transcript : “Cher moi”

Cher moi
When they tell you that you talk funny
That your words fall on deaf ears
Like trees in a forest that one hears
Do not try to make yourself smaller
Just so they can feel bigger

Even though your accent
Sits on fault lines between languages
You're not sure how to use yet
And your عربي
Takes you twice as long to form sentences
You use اسم instead of فعل
With incorrect quantifications and genders

You'll spend years trying to pronounce your own name in a language that feels like yours
With handwriting that feels like yours

Cher moi
Know that misshapen letters
And messy words never stopped anyone from weaving them into the stanzas
Know there is beauty in contrast
And bold lines
In skies of bright blue and burnt orange
Painted as if by memory

Your spelling gets better
But your handwriting still looks like it did in 4th grade
When you spent hours making sure your letter S was exactly symmetrical
Like the Japanese orgiami cranes your mother learned how to fold
Cher Moi
I wish I could send you postcards
Painted from where we end up
That say
wish you were here
Breathe
You're right where you need to be
Everything works out in the end
To make up for all the days
You didn't have any friends
When you would have given anything to be anyone other than who you are
Be anywhere but here
Anything other than the piece to a puzzle that never fully makes it home

Cher moi
Go home
Go to where your voice sings the loudest
Regardless of whether it knows all the right words
Go
Where it is met with a set of sailboat lungs
And broad shoulders that carry the weight of the world

Cher moi
Sometimes they will mistake your kindness
For the welcome mat in the doorway
Do not let their gravity ground
The song bird singing in your chest
Or change the beat of your marching band heart

Your kindness is not a curtain of weakness
To hide behind
Because you think they'll like you more if you're quiet and compliant
Be the bold brush strokes to your canvas
Be the crane over the landscapes
Normally colored in monotone

Cher moi
You were never meant for backstage
No matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise

Still be thankful
For those who love you
Those who you love
Those who you love but dont love you back

Cher moi
You built a spine out of marble and a ribcage out of sawdust from dreams
But you're scared of your voice
Scared of being heard
I promise
You will grow into your words
The same way a hurricane rips through
It's surroundings
Fast, unforeseen, without warning
And no matter how much you do
You're never actually fully prepared for it's magnitude

Cher moi
Tes mots deviendront ta raison d'etre
Tout comme l'été qui a été changé en automne
Sous le ciel tu changeras aussi
Comme les saisons
Comme le vent

Cher moi
Your eyes are Tsuruko's
Your mother says her mother's eyes live in yours
Lined with stars and constellations
Of a thousand orgiami cranes
Flying in the night

Cher moi
I know you do not think much
Of poetry or words
Or yourself
But one day, years from now

A girl in 9th grade will tell you that she is laughed at for her words
And she'll ask you how you knew you were a poet
You will tell her what I am telling you now

قد يكونون القافية والكلمات
البحر والوزن
لكن
تبقى القصيدة للشاعرة
وانا وقصيدتي لا نخشى الغرق

Like a postcard from where we end up
That says
Wish you were here
Breathe
It all works out in the end

Poem Credits: Afra Atiq

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