Matriarchal Lineage, Traced:
When I think of my name, I think of how easily it rolls off my lips and onto my tongue. I purse my mouth and let it sit there as it boils beneath the skin: Mariam. If you say it right, it’s magic. The Arabic of it all feels like home, like I never left Syria, like my grandma is still alive, rolling grape leaves as my other grandma kneads dough. My name smells like their kitchens, tastes like their kisses on my cheek. When I miss them, I remember that Mariam is a piece of their hearts, their wrinkled hands hand-picked it and wrapped it up in a package of their love so that they’re always with me even in passing.
My name is my mother yelling it, telling me to do better so that I can be better. It is the pain she has felt raising six kids in a home away from her home, and then the pain of watching that home implode and explode knowing her mother is buried deep within whatever is left of the land. Mariam is the cold-warm earth wrapped around the packaged bodies of those who came before me.
I close my eyes and find myself standing at a graveyard, saying my grandmothers’ names, wondering if they hear me through the noise of war and the silence of death. Salt tears roll away, spilling onto and into the ground, watering the deceased with my longing for them. I swallow their names back into the depths of memory, letting myself breathe by forgetting the letters I’ve inherited just for a moment’s peace.
To be dead is to be free. To be nameless is to be freer.
But to be freer means you have lost all semblance of self.
My name is tied down to their histories, herstories that weave my story together. Do not unravel me by stumbling across, through, and on top of its pronunciation, pulling at the strings of consonants and vowels. Say it lightly, with a feminine air because before I became Mariam, I was woman. I was women.
My eyes flicker open.
My name is my clarity.