The Siren Speaks
Your question inflects its confusion at the crisscrossing of eastern name and western features. Never mind the ancient routes that fed, blended and bumped you and I together - I know that you want nothing more than to fit me into your size 9 1/2 shoe box, and tell me about the great Lebanese place that serves tabbouli.
But my friend, where I am from no longer matters, for I've absorbed more culture than a petri dish, and my kitchen swells with microcosmic aromas and the sizzling seesaw of foreign tongues. And while my childhood mind will always yearn to lap the tang of zaatar around the harboured hips of hummus, and dip the oars of saaj into the velvet tars of my teta's dibs, it feels right at home curled up in Afghan bread and lathered in feta cheese; infused in the golden streams of Andalucía under the reddened rugs of the Persian sun.
Every time I unfold the wings of my bookcase, I flee upwards towards Mandela's freedom, breathing in the emerald of Austen's rolling English hills, journeying with Jubran's prophet on Zachary Jane's lifeboat, up and down Phoenician rivers, towards the lands of Rumi's mystics.
And when the Ethiopian cream of my cupped black pearls stares back at me with life's more complicated questions, I contemplate my answers under the skies of the Maya; a yinshi finding stillness in the mothering hands of Thich Nhat Hanh's oaks, conquering Tamerlane fears with the vulnerability of Brené Brown's courage.
I am khalto to my niece, akki to my younger sister, hija to my mother.
For though I was born under a peppered sky, screams drowned by the caved wailing of punctured walls –
just as surely as the winds
do not obey your parcelled dirt,
and the sun does not first rise
under your Western banner –
I belong to any land that calls me daughter, and speak in the tongue of its hiraeth.
But really, 'Where are you from?'