Shorthand, Written In A Scarf

A Poem by Sabina C. Becker


If scarves could speak,
what tales would they tell?

The old Palestinian
in his kaffiyah, the Saudi Arab
with his burnoose, the Tuareg
who veils his face while his womenfolk
show theirs, the Iranian women
who show their faces but under black

The women of Afghanistan
are veiled from head to foot,
but no one can call them terrorists
except, maybe, the Taliban
(who wear no scarves,
unless you count turbans).

Even here, in the decadent West,
some brides still veil their faces,
if for no reason other than tradition.
But their veils are as transparent
as their hymens.
They contain as little meaning
as they do fabric.
They are not a threat
except maybe to those who like their virgins
as unambiguous as their laws.

Those nineteen men who terrorized America
(the decadent West)
were altogether barefaced.
It didn't matter who saw them board her planes.
In fact, had they been visible
as Muslims
(in scarves)
would they have gotten so far?

The veil does not conceal terrorists.
Neither does it make them visible.
This is not the kind of shorthand
that is written in a scarf.

Nowhere is it written
that a Muslim's scarf means anything
except I am a Muslim,
I pray five times a day,
go to mosque on Fridays,
fast from dawn to dusk in the ninth month,
give alms to those poorer than I,
make the journey to Mecca at least once in my life,
read the Koran every day...

and nowhere in the Koran does it say
that one has to be a terrorist
if one is a Muslim
who happens to wear a scarf.

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Sabina Becker is a poet and a writer who lives in Cobourg, Ontario with her computer, her books and her cats. You can see more of her work at http://www.sabinabecker.com. This is Becker's second contribution to Swans.

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Published February 3, 2003
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