Amina Jama

Amina Jama


            arabic word meaning “i swear to god”
            used by muslims and non-muslims globally

there is god in everything
but sometimes
not in   wallahi.
i promise i didn’t take
from your closet
or lock myself in mine.
wallahi, i asked novia
in the lunch queue
if she was muslim,
how wallahi
slips from her tongue
like date seeds.
i believed my mum
when she said he
would get better.
i mean
she said
i am screws
in an empty
biscuit tin, wallahi,
i sometimes want to
know what it feels like
to be white.
wore blue contacts
at fifteen,
wallahi, i thought
no one would notice.
there is no
foundation shade
made for me,
no ‘nude’ lipstick.
they want me to
be white too.
someday I may
grow up to have white
in me, wallahi,
it will caress
my already broken
skin like marble.


            After Momtaza Mehri

our diction is perfect / reminds us that we are not her children / she is using our hair combs / reminds us that we are nothing more than a black square / our mothers’ ordered our kafans with the pregnancy test / began the shrouding at birth / predicted their reactions to our skin / we lay perpendicular to the qibla at night / memorise its feel / we heat the water for our ghusul / on the stove / we weep / not wail /

                                                                        we are pooled necessity / greased elbows / a tourniquet at the waist / bismillah / benevolent people / with earlobes stretched to heels / with gashes on cheeks / with red fingertips / a neck of mustard beads / a split tongue / revolution painted on eyelids / crimson nails / we are everything they fear / we visit saudi with the hate of republic suppressed / we walk in full circles / men traipsing on our heels / catcalled in mothers’ hand / all for the love of god /

                                                                                    every jummah is a blessing / every hug a message / every step or breath a protest / i wonder what they hear / when we say we want to keep living / royal blue scarfs draped over school uniforms / give murder murder’s name / they think black lives can propagate like plants / not when they burn the roots / 72 is not the correct figure / 24 floors / 120 homes / no survivors / make it make sense / you can’t lie on lives / death has a way of telling the truth / just you wait / we won’t stop telling on you


you tell me to turn it up    ask if he is muslim      aren’t we all i say
and with that i mean                                            this world is too loud and we all
something to believe in
there is no destination
                                    the stores are closed
                                    including grace’s caribbean
                                    the roads are empty
                                    making this an easy path
                                    there are lies in the shape of canisters
you ask me if i’ve ever stolen
and i say imagine if malcolm never left the nation of islam
these songs are dawah
                                    we commit to walking for 40 minutes
                                    it could’ve been 40 days and god may have revealed to us
the true destination
                                    but with only jay to speak with it is hard to focus
you bring up the rothschild
            i say we don’t speak about her during a nasheed
you ask if hov is muslim too                                               aren’t we all
cannot remember the last time      i listened to an album
and heard my ancestors
            generations pass but the fight never does
            i want to scream       the lyrics
                                             goodnight this is amina from london
there are about 20 feds drinking coffee out of reusable cups
my environment matters more than i do
i wonder how many of my friends will      pull up            even you?
for the last few minutes
we reach our overpriced, rented home
rapping etta james’s             at last

AMINA JAMA‘s debut poetry pamphlet is A Warning To The House That Holds Me (Flipped Eye, 2019). She won an Eric Gregory Award in 2020.