Ruth Awad

Three daughters is called a conspiracy, our father says.

We leave our stones in the quarry. Strike like jinns.
Feed him undercooked potatoes. Build a temple
to hide from his wrath.

Fill our dressers with illicit satin straps and hems
of flesh-baring potential, sun our shoulders
in dresses our mother stitched from bargain-bin fabric.

Remember the white wool cape pieced with real
fox fur? She looked like royalty—a miner’s daughter
raised on rabbit meat.

We are the daughters of scrap and smoke and salt.
Tiny black dresses stinking with the love of strangers.
We are like our mother, the night sky locked

in our arms like a man who will hurt us.

Men Compliment Me

Ruth Awad

Men compliment me like I’m a distant planet
—only they have the good taste to admire its desolate beauty!

O to reach into the galaxy like it was filled just for you.

One man tells me I look sad and I think too much so
I think about that, too.

I think about his good intentions.
My freshly bloodied teeth.

The men who scare me most come not like wolves but like mice
and gnaw away at the floor beneath my feet.

I was twelve the first time I was called exotic.
Fourteen when I was deemed a terrorist.

Fifteen when I starved myself to rib
and yellowed skin. Thin as a tomato slice.

I mean a planet eventually plots its own extinction

as an aging empire waves its flag from the moon.
White men say the world is ending.

White men say the world is ending
and she’s asking for it.

Ruth Awad headshot

Ruth Awad is the Lebanese-American author of Set to Music a Wildfire (Southern Indiana Review Press, 2017), which won the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize and the 2018 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She received the 2020 and 2016 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and won the 2013 and 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest. Her work appears in Poetry, Poem-a-Day, The New Republic, and elsewhere.