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On Being The Artist

“We reclaim that same energy, that beautifying clarity that women possess

that has had us burned at the stakes, stoned to death, sexualized to sell

automobiles. We manifest creation through the language arts.”

Suheir Hammad

It hurts differently when

The people closest to you are the first to plant

The fence posts of your enclosure

You write (or draw, or paint or record)

You do not get married in your 20s

Like any good daughter should

They view you as a shame

And tell you about it too

You become a threat

To a fragile continuance

A worldview, a mindset

Outdated though it may be

Part of you will always want support (you bury that part)

Praise over critique

Support over suspicion

You will look to your chosen family

Only to find more struggle there too

None of the artists you know

Make their livings on their art alone

You will live that too

Your successes will feel few and far between

The struggles and weights of familial

Judgment and exclusion

Will feel like the only constant

You will wonder if it’s even worth it

Worth all the strenuous efforts

For such minimal rewards

Such rare victory in your chosen craft(s)

Maybe you should just get married,

Get the pre-approved degree

Get comfortable with the walls and tracks

That others have deemed acceptable

For a good Egyptian daughter

To finally get some sort of recognition


Resource sharing

But maybe not

Maybe such early life exposure

To your own spine

Will embolden you later

Will flesh out your own resolve

Maybe the heart of the beast you are becoming

Can be made strong

Through this

Maybe in learning the shapes of your strength

You will one day be able to return

To the small sounds of your softness

Maybe your softness is

The most courageous

Thing in the universe

MARY BARGHOUT is a mixed heritage Egyptian American reader and sometimes writer who is currently on a Star Wars universe kick. Her work has appeared in Mizna, Azeema Magazine, Saint Paul Almanac, and online at and at


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