By: Sarah Ben Tkhayet

She sips leben out of a tall glass
and honors her ancestors and traditions.
Henna embellishes the sweaty palms of her hands every holiday.
She pours her soul into the folk songs
that ring through the pure air.
She emits ululations with a new-found fervor,
her bright-red tongue, streaked with leben white,
beats against the roof of her mouth.
braiding the coarse filaments into
sturdy baskets that will carry her
household’s prized possessions.

She lives in a large city,
where tall glass buildings stand in rows,
where powerful people hold clovered dollar bills
in their white wrinkly hands.
Where big-shot pop stars are praised at sunrise
and replaced at sunset.
Where coca-cola commercials ring through countless ears,
the four same notes repeating like
the sound of a cashier checking out groceries at the local mart.
Where trained fingers brush through expensive hair,
incorporating extensions and creams
that will soon be indistinguishable from the natural streaks.

She sits cross-legged, her hand, holding a limited-edition
pop-tart, is encircled by the amulet of Fatima’s hand.
Greasy-haired, white, skinny boys laugh like creaking doors
at her faithfulness,
brandishing a bony middle finger as they beat her with words
full of evil connotations and fake memories to place shame.
Sun-kissed women covered in colorful fabric reminiscent
of old souls and goals, laugh like boiling water
at her straightened hair and western fabrics.

A yellow popsicle in a quivering hand serves as a white flag,
but the locals are blind to it.  They walk with trays bearing cups of red tea
peppered with roasted almonds that sink like a troubled girl’s hopes.

Her soul swirls like a tropical storm
caught in a chasm, deep like her ambitions,
caught between world & world, like a kid between divorced parents.


Sarah Ben Tkhayet is 16 years old; she lives in Hong Kong.  Sarah is a French and Tunisian published poet and writer.  She writes in French and English but also speaks Arabic fluently.  In her free time she enjoys reading and writing articles about issues that matter to her.


image: Rahul Pandit on Pexels