Weam Namou was born in Baghdad, Iraq as a minority Christian, and came to America at age ten. The author of three novels, she studied poetry in Prague and screenwriting at MPI (Motion Picture Institute of Michigan). She is also the co-founder and president of IAA (Iraqi Artists Association). Her articles and poetry has appeared in national and international publications. http://www.pw.org/content/weam_namou





A Childhood in Iraq

Sun shines over a mélange of
green grass and white snow,
like a lime flavored slurpee.
Snow in rarely detected in Baghdad.

Through the window a squirrel
passes by, nibbles at the cereal
I’ve left for it on the deck.
Pets are not encouraged in Iraq.

A lunch of hot tea and a cold slice
of pepperoni pizza I prepare for me,
without removing the pepperoni.
Pork is not halal in the Arabic world.

I listen to the poetic Quranic verses on TV
even though I belong to a Christian minority
who still speak Aramaic, called the Chaldeans.
They’re being persecuted in their native land as we speak.

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds…
the imam leads a prayer
I remember the paper bag of baby green apples
my father used to bring home for us.

My younger brother and I tied
their stems to a string,
treated the apples like yoyos.
We had no toys back then, nor swings.

We built play houses out of cardboard boxes
pretended pillows were our dolls,
pots and utensils our musical instruments.
In Iraq, today, children can’t afford to be that simple.

Didn’t need anyone to read to us a bedtime story
aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors,
were our heroes and villains.
Now, terrorists and gangs rule that part of the earth. 



I talk about you, as many others do,
sticking labels such as arrogant and gullible
over your name, like stamps over a large Christmas package.

You dress me with possibilities,
I try on this and that outfit of different colors and sizes,
meanwhile focusing on your limitations.

You do not reprimand me for my verbal thoughts,
rather, you listen, weigh the options and consider
whether what I have to say is worthy of action.

Oftentimes, I even receive applause
for pointing out your negativities and idiocies.
In return, you remain true to the First Amendment you’ve provided.

You’ve allowed me to take a deep look at your weaknesses
and in turn caused me to appreciate your strength and integrity.
That’s real balance, the yin and yang, of our planet.

While I love the country of my birth, of Iraq,
where I was blessed with the best childhood,
I must admit, had I remained there, as an adult,
Freedom of Speech is something I may never have experienced.