A Son from North Africa
My cousin arrived a month ago
I tell him living here is not so bad
unless you are Black.
He asks, do I pass for Black?
I say I do not think so maybe
I would mistake you for Dominican
which is to say yes you are Black
unless you are not
what I’m trying to say is I do not know
if you are in danger.
A 19 year old immigrant asks
for help on his college application
his skin is a shade darker than mine
and didn’t speak the language but knew
to check off White on the application.
In my office another student tells me
he is West African
I tell him I’m Egyptian
His face lights up with a smile and says,
I am from the Ivory Coast.
His smile disappears leans in and says,
You do not know where it is do you?
Brother, you beat us in the African Cup.
A Somali woman asked me
Why do Egyptians think they are not in Africa?
In a restaurant the waitress tells us
her name is Sanaya
I want to tell her I love your name
it is my grandmother’s
What I am trying to say is when
my friend Kareem asked me to translate
Chris Rock’s jokes into Arabic
he didn’t laugh at the jokes or my bad translation
he looked dazed and said
Is he talking about us?
Belal Mobarak was born in Alexandria, Egypt. Raised in Queens. As a middle child, writing is how he learned to finish his stories and poetry is how he learned to tell them with the least amount of words. Recently selected as a finalist in Brutal Nation’s Competition for Writers of Color. You can find his work published in Columbia Poetry Review, Newtown Literary, Blueshift Journal, and forthcoming work in DMC, Flock and Apogee Journal. He currently works for Higher Education in New York City.