by Tawnysha Greene

My first time alone
with the women in Saudi Arabia,
abayas, head covers off and I see

their faces, their hair free. Hands touch
me, lead me down
a line of greetings, kisses, whispers

in Arabic that I try
to return, trilled rs, long ms,
they laugh, because my words are

Egyptian, not Saudi, not
ours, they say. I watch, follow
what they do, sit on the ground, drink gawa

from tiny gold cups, nibble whole fried fish
with my right hand. We break bread, strangers,
now friends, uncovered, naked

in a way, because they speak to me of love.
They motion with their hands, point
to themselves, each other, then

at me, pause to see
if I understand, stop between streams
of Arabic to say daughter, sister, lover.

(Today’s poem originally appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Tawnysha Greene is currently a Ph.D. candidate in fiction writing at the University of Tennessee. Her work has appeared in various literary journals including Bellingham Review and Raleigh Review and is forthcoming in PANK Magazine.

Editor’s Note: When I first read today’s poem I was reminded of Reading Lolita in Tehran, a fantastic book I read recently about women in Iran and their relationship to their country, their government, their gender, and the veil. I was also reminded of Naomi Shihab Nye, a Palestinian-American poet whose soft-spoken reflections on the Middle East are often humbling, and, in particular, of Shihab Nye’s poem “Red Brocade,” one of my favorite poems of all time. Today’s poem is rich with sisterhood, with women bonding in their own sacred space—a tradition that dates back to a time before the patriarchy and remains a critical aspect of the feminine to this day. While I was drawn to all of these aspects of the poem, it was one stunning moment of emotional lyric that made me fall in love: “naked / in a way, because they speak to me of love.”

Want to read more by and about Tawnysha Greene?
Mandala Journal
Salome Magazine


  1. unlike Neil Young~~~we agree. Particularly about the line, ‘they speak to me of love’ being the most moving within this (peace). thank you. if only women ruled the world!


  2. Yes, this is a moment I can never have. All my travel through those regions as a male, with those incredible privileges that confers, yet it’s not the same in a hamman with men in Tunis, Cairo or Casa. That connection is different, and we have a long way to go before it can become the same between men and women. I know the world will be a better place then, if we can reach true equality in honesty, communication, gender and race.


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