Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Mona Kareem

Kumari

Dear Kumari,
I, of course, do not know if Kumari was really your name,
It became a custom in the Gulf to change the name of the servant upon arrival,
The mama says to you, “Your name is Maryam/Fatima/Kumari/Chandra,”
Even before she gives you your cotton apron,
The same apron that the previous Kumari used
Before she ran away
And became free
Crowded in a single room with ten others
Watching their pictures on the walls
Fading under the air conditioners.
 
Kumari,
They may talk to you in English
And give you your own room,
But they will dress you in a pink uniform,
For the concubine is no longer required to seduce.
 
Or they may talk to you in Arabic and the language of fingers,
That which depends on hand signs in some days,
Or on slapping your cheeks in others.
 
You might have to help the son
Discover his sexual desires,
Or even sacrifice
For the father’s bodily failures.
In both cases, do not run to the police station,
From there all fathers and sons come.
 
Kumari,
You must cut your hair regularly,
Mama might get angry one day
And claim your braid as a rope in her hand.
 
Write all the songs that you love in a notebook,
No forgotten songs can be found there.
 
Get angry, Kumari,
Hang yourself with the clothesline,
Use your knife outside the kitchen,
Teach the Mama and the Baba and the Bacha a lesson,
Let them create all those myths about your gods
Who ask you in your dreams
For some Khaleeji blood
To feed the belly of history.
 
Run, Kumari, run
And steal everything you find;
A ghost gotta act like one.
 

KUMARI

Beste Kumari,
ik weet natuurlijk niet of je Kumari heet of anders,
het is een gewoonte geworden om meteen bij aankomst de naam van de werkster te veranderen,
de mama zegt: je naam is Maryam, Fatima, Kumari of Chandra
zelfs voordat je je katoenen schort krijgt
de Kumari voor jou gebruikte hetzelfde schort
voordat ze wegliep
en vrij was
opgepropt in een kamer met tien anderen
de muren beplakt met verbleekte foto’s onder de airco.
 
Kumari,
ze spreken Engels tegen je en geven je een eigen kamer
maar je zult ook een roze uniform moeten dragen
want een concubine mag vanaf nu niet verleidelijk meer zijn.
 
Of ze zullen Arabisch tegen je spreken en met de hand gebarentaal
die soms rekent op tekens
en dan weer op je wang.
 
Misschien word je genoodzaakt de zoon te helpen
zijn seksuele behoeftes te ontdekken
of je zelfs op te offeren
vanwege de fysieke gebreken van vader
in beide gevallen, ren niet naar het politiebureau
daar komen alle vaders en zonen vandaan.
 
Kumari,
je moet regelmatig je haar knippen
mama kan op een dag boos worden en je vlecht als touw in handen nemen.
 
Schrijf alle liedjes waar je van houdt op in een schrift
hier vind je geen vergeten liedjes.
 
Word boos Kumari
hang jezelf op met de waslijn
gebruik je mes buiten de keukengrenzen
leer de mama en de papa en de knul hun lesje
laat ze al die mythes creëren
over jullie goden die in dromen bloed uit de golfstaten eisen
om de buik van de geschiedenis te vullen.
 
Vlucht Kumari
en pik alles wat je vinden kunt
een geest moet zich gedragen als een geest.
 

كوماري

 عزيزتي كوماري،
لا أعرف طبعاً إن كان اسمك كوماري أو غيره،
جرت العادة أن يغيروا اسم الخادمة فور وصولها،
تقول لكِ الماما: “اسمك مريم/فاطمة/كوماري/جاندرا"
حتى قبل أن تعطيكِ دراعتك القطنية،
ذاتها التي استخدمتها كوماري التي سبقتك
قبل أن تهرب
وتصبح حرة
محشورة في غرفة واحدة مع ١٠ أخريات
استبدلن الجدران بصور بهتت تحت المكيفات.
 
يا كوماري،
قد يحدثونك بالإنجليزية ويعطونكِ غرفة لكِ وحدكِ
لكنهم سيلبسونكِ "يونيفورم" زهري،
فليس على الجارية أن تكون مغرية بعد الآن.
 
أو قد يحدثونك بالعربية وبلغة الأصابع
تلك التي تعتمد على الإشارات في أحيانٍ
وعلى خدكِ في أحيانٍ أخرى.
 
لربما ستضطرين لمساعدة الابن
في اكتشاف رغباته الجنسية
أو حتى التضحية
من أجل خيبات الأب الجسدية.
في الحالتين، لا تركضين إلى مركز الشرطة،
من هناك يأتي كل الآباء والأبناء.
 
كوماري،
عليكِ قص شعركِ بشكل مستمر،
“ماما" قد تغضب ذات يوم وتأخذ ظفيرتك حبلاً في يدها.
 
اكتبي كل الأغاني التي تحبينها في دفتر،
فلا يمكن إيجاد أي موسيقى منسية هنا.
 
اغضبي يا كوماري
اشنقي نفسكِ بحبل الغسيل،
استخدمي سكينك خارج حدود الطبخ،
لقني "الماما" و"البابا" و"البَچه" درساً،
دعيهم يختلقون كل تلك الأساطير
عن آلهتكم التي تطلب منكم في المنام
دماءً خليجية تروي كرش التاريخ.
 
اهربي يا كوماري
واسرقي كل ما تجدين،
على الأشباح أن تتصرف كأشباح.
 
Close

Kumari

Dear Kumari,
I, of course, do not know if Kumari was really your name,
It became a custom in the Gulf to change the name of the servant upon arrival,
The mama says to you, “Your name is Maryam/Fatima/Kumari/Chandra,”
Even before she gives you your cotton apron,
The same apron that the previous Kumari used
Before she ran away
And became free
Crowded in a single room with ten others
Watching their pictures on the walls
Fading under the air conditioners.
 
Kumari,
They may talk to you in English
And give you your own room,
But they will dress you in a pink uniform,
For the concubine is no longer required to seduce.
 
Or they may talk to you in Arabic and the language of fingers,
That which depends on hand signs in some days,
Or on slapping your cheeks in others.
 
You might have to help the son
Discover his sexual desires,
Or even sacrifice
For the father’s bodily failures.
In both cases, do not run to the police station,
From there all fathers and sons come.
 
Kumari,
You must cut your hair regularly,
Mama might get angry one day
And claim your braid as a rope in her hand.
 
Write all the songs that you love in a notebook,
No forgotten songs can be found there.
 
Get angry, Kumari,
Hang yourself with the clothesline,
Use your knife outside the kitchen,
Teach the Mama and the Baba and the Bacha a lesson,
Let them create all those myths about your gods
Who ask you in your dreams
For some Khaleeji blood
To feed the belly of history.
 
Run, Kumari, run
And steal everything you find;
A ghost gotta act like one.
 

Kumari

Dear Kumari,
I, of course, do not know if Kumari was really your name,
It became a custom in the Gulf to change the name of the servant upon arrival,
The mama says to you, “Your name is Maryam/Fatima/Kumari/Chandra,”
Even before she gives you your cotton apron,
The same apron that the previous Kumari used
Before she ran away
And became free
Crowded in a single room with ten others
Watching their pictures on the walls
Fading under the air conditioners.
 
Kumari,
They may talk to you in English
And give you your own room,
But they will dress you in a pink uniform,
For the concubine is no longer required to seduce.
 
Or they may talk to you in Arabic and the language of fingers,
That which depends on hand signs in some days,
Or on slapping your cheeks in others.
 
You might have to help the son
Discover his sexual desires,
Or even sacrifice
For the father’s bodily failures.
In both cases, do not run to the police station,
From there all fathers and sons come.
 
Kumari,
You must cut your hair regularly,
Mama might get angry one day
And claim your braid as a rope in her hand.
 
Write all the songs that you love in a notebook,
No forgotten songs can be found there.
 
Get angry, Kumari,
Hang yourself with the clothesline,
Use your knife outside the kitchen,
Teach the Mama and the Baba and the Bacha a lesson,
Let them create all those myths about your gods
Who ask you in your dreams
For some Khaleeji blood
To feed the belly of history.
 
Run, Kumari, run
And steal everything you find;
A ghost gotta act like one.
 
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
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