Naaz Modan

Poem: Living on the Hyphen

Are you a Muslim first, or an American first?
This question was intended to be well-versed
But underlying questions are always assumptions
That it’s impossible to be both was this one’s presumption
Pew Research Institute posed this question
In an attempt to form some impressions
Of the Muslims that call America home
For Muslim-Americans, to each his own!
But in this question lies another
Which must be considered like no other
And this question that must be asked
Is not an easy or surface-level task
What does America mean to me?
Land of the free, home of the brave
America is the place where I feel safe
Yet politicians fight over who can deny me
Basic rights and the protection of privacy
What should America mean to me?
To my cousins in England I would boast
That America is perfection at its utmost
Equality and freedoms open to all,
No other place seemed less banal
What has America meant to me?
So now this question I must answer
Lest it form some heinous cancer
But, alas! I cannot fathom a reply
To hyphenated Americans I must render a sigh
And leave them to wrestle with this question
As to its answer, I have but one suggestion
America has no single religion, race, or surname
And that is the very essence of our fame.

Submitted by Zayna Syed.