Zaynab wears a smile and a pink floral dress

her black hijab is laced in gold trim

black leather boots two-inch heels gold buckles


I help her edit a descriptive essay about a home

her family rented for many years in Iraq

my birth house  my birth house  my birth house


we discuss repetition  choose carefully

my brothers  my brothers  all killed

I sigh softly  continue professionally


postpone empathy for the drive home

my mother planted jasmine in the yard

the smell filled our house like fairy kisses


does she know jasmine symbolizes love

in some cultures represents good luck

my mother always cooked outside until my father


built her a clay oven so she could cook inside

at night we told jokes and counted stars

on the roof where we slept many nights


Zaynab reads aloud to check her verb tense

voice as maternal as her rings are gold

in 2017 we returned to my birth house to visit


but a lady turned it into a mosque  I was sad

I hoped to return one day to live in it again

we learned that everything changes  even people


but not sunlight that used to fill our living room

my birth house stands forever in my heart

it has been nearly an hour  she thanks me


smiles goodbye over her shoulder

I imagine her on the big screen at Sundance

another student enters  Vera Bradley backpack


half-empty café mocha  same assignment

my homeland  my homeland  my homeland