Threa Almontaser

Poetry

Threa Almontaser is a Yemeni-American writer born and raised in New York City. She is a MFA candidate in poetry at North Carolina State University. Her poetry won the 2016 NC State poetry contest, was a finalist for the James Hurst poetry prize, and is a winner of the 9th annual Nazim Hikmet poetry competition. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Track Four Journal, Kakalak Magazine, Gravel Magazine, Day One Journal, Oakland Arts Review, Smokey Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, Atlantis Magazine, and elsewhere. She currently teaches English to immigrants and refugees in Raleigh. Besides writing, Threa enjoys traveling to places not easily found on a map.

 

Sympathy for Foreign Mothers

PBS taught my brother and me English:
Sesame Street, Between the Lions, Reading Rainbow . . .

we passed each learned word between one another—

an umbilical cord of lessons connecting us
to our new terrain. When our mom probed us for words,

we shrugged her off, you don’t need it.

She’d clench the dishcloth in her fist and huff,
what do you know, anyway?

One evening, she practiced her halting English

on our dad. He stopped her with a hand,
unable to grasp the gibberish flowing past her lips,

her eager words tinged with the kinky thickness

of a borrowed tongue. Just leave the English
to me, he said. Everyone insisted, don’t worry about it.

A woman in the house all day,

you won’t need it. It’s true she was sequestered
on the top floor of our rickety apartment in the projects,

spent her days cooking and cleaning—

and if she was lucky to get a call card—phone her family
back home. What friends did she have other than us?

We were fitting in ourselves, had no time

to be the companion of a lonely adult.
From then on, she kept to herself. Didn’t utter a single word

in any language until our dad left to work

at a chicken market in the Bronx. Then she perched
right in front of the TV, her whispers desperate and sharp,

rehearsing phrases from the mouths

of strange lions and big yellow birds,
trying to illuminate their meanings.