I am human, too

(On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I’m sharing a poem I wrote in August 2011 about the chronic sexual harassment Egyptian women have faced for years)

I see you every day
Walking down the street
I’d rather smile at you and say hello
But you inspire instant mistrust

I avert my eyes
Look everywhere but straight at you
It’s a weakness I confess

I’d rather walk with my head held high
Instead of looking at the pavement
It’s become so familiar

I cower to your looming threat
Yes, I am a coward at times
Though I’m known to be brave otherwise
One of the many things you steal

It’s funny that you don’t remember me

I am the mother that gave you birth
Sister of the same blood
Daughter of your father, too

The life line of creation
I am affection and passion
Patience and humility
Strength and resilience

A shoulder to lean on
A pat on the back
I am the sun that shines on you
I carry the future in my womb

I nurture the present
Keep the past in check
For all is I deserve respect

And if nothing else, I am human, too
Don’t you remember me?

I see despise in your eyes
Leering, jeering lustful glares

Even if my arms are bare
Or covered from head to toe
Walking tall and clicking my heals
Or shuffling along in slippered feet

I am here
I am present
I exist

Though your gropes kill little parts of me
I can die a little each day
But I’m back tomorrow on these same streets
Ready to fight, again

I exist
I am present
I am here
Where I’ve always been

Don’t you remember me?

Where is the precious stone?
Where do you draw the line?
You were the brother I looked to in years gone by

Why have I run so far from where you stand?
Catch up, evolve

Time is moving
I grow stronger, louder and more powerful
And you?
Your weakness rings through every taunt

And now I’ve found my voice
No, I will not keep it down
Listen to my mighty ruckus
Suffer the consequences of your advances

Stare at me, I will stare you down
With my beautifully lined eyes
And my glossy lips?
They can spew profanities, too

I’ll scream at you
Until your remember me

*Amira Salah-Ahmed