Tarik Dobbs

Deconstructing My Birth

After Gharib Asqalani


A white man & my mother shape a name:

Tarik or Tariq: !50!  one who travels at night time; a nomad;
!100! !50! a crescent cuddling a star in the holy land/ a plane
!100! !50! to Palestine, a slipping or gasping exit


ascent by ladder, the dream visitor
tears moonlight with scorching heat—imitating
twilight or landing

please unlock, the guard points
like my father holding in

every regret, my name
the lightest Arab skin,

I thought no towel looked good
on my head, a crow dismembers road-

-kill, the middle of the road,
a desert storm in Harran,

but you celebrated Christmas, right?
you don’t really know Arabic?

he means a White Muslim, thought
I’d crossed mountains—

reflection of red roofs, mint, & solar heaters,
my throat outpouring a salt-less trench of Lake Michigan,

inserting self into a Green Line, first
pulling in as fragments seep out,

undistinguished before, the self
cross-examines the cities visited,

a mandate of wounded vanity,
to memorize the opening

of a prophet’s cave—
a crescent moon nuzzling

from homestay,
what it means to be Arab and American

like Eisa’s painted face, to be born
with two names; both

the night and the lantern

Tarik Dobbs is a queer, Lebanese-American poet from Dearborn, MI. He is the winner of a fellowship and two awards in the 2018 Michigan Hopwood Program. His poems are forthcoming or recently appear in Diode, Tinderbox, and Glass. He draws inspiration from stories of his mother and grandmother.