Xylem


By Kamelya Youssef

People usually comment
that your name is also
a flower
or that you’re named after it
or it after you.

          Because we are named for things that have died or will die before us
          like my cousin was named after my grandfather

          like my aunt was named after a star
          that died lightyears ago
          or the star was named after her—

          I do not know which star they were looking at
          when they first gave her a name.

          She is one of those women who died for being a woman in a time of war.
          To them, it’s no surprise.

And suddenly
your hands are leaves

and your legs are in soil.
Your torso is a stem

and what you thought was your face
is now a sepal

holding the cascade of petals
curled into each other

many and safe

and your eyes are now
stamen

and your heart
is the pistil

and your heart
is the pistol

and those of us with flowery names
have always known that our death is certain.

At least once, we have crushed ourselves and stained our fingers
or found a stray sister on the grey sidewalk
or drawn water upwards though we were cut.

With enough light, some flowers live for over two hundred years.

To us, it is no surprise.


Kamelya Omayma Youssef is a poet, teacher, and student based in Detroit. You can find her poetry in Mizna and THIS. magazine. She's a board member of the Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI). Her ongoing work is mastering the art of being in multiple places at once.