by Roxana Cazan
See there, our grandmother’s headscarf, the same we pulled with small fists at night when she’d put us to bed, the kiss of its fabric against the skin of our hands, the same softness as that of lips. We felt so safe, babes wrapped in blankets like the twinned drupe of a walnut wrapped tightly in husk, the same touch, only love making it feel soft no matter the bind. There, the same scarf covering a mouth never ready for the murderous gulps. A tool for Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, the headscarf hurts. Muffles and chokes your father’s people. Your mother’s people. They said EIT on TV last night, but we heard ENT, because the scarf of disgust covered our ears, it wanted to protect us from all that violence. How can you waterboard another human and then go kiss your kids as you tuck them in bed, pull the blanket just over their shoulders stopping at the chin, making sure breath brings in the dreaming? The most important qualifier for shame is for a third party to witness the act. They brought in people to watch. How could one watch that and then watch something beautiful out of the same two eyes? Something like a grandmother’s headscarf tied to keep the stray hair away from her face as she bends to pick up her grandchildren? What if we willed headscarves out of existence? Would that stop the torture? Would that erase Abu Ghraib or Pitesti? Would that make us trust more, keep our eyes closed until the great reveal?
A first-generation Romanian American poet, Roxana Cazan is the author of two poetry books, The Accident of Birth (Main Street Rag, 2017) and Tethered to the Unexpected (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). She co-edited Voices on the Move: An Anthology by and about Refugees (Solis Press, 2020).