Ode to the Security Woman

Mona Kareem
November 12, 2021

“The maiming and obliteration of language preempts and attempts to excuse the maiming and obliteration of bodies,” writes the poet Solmaz Sharif. Indeed, empire requires an ongoing campaign of distortion: It produces a weapon from thin air after an agent of the state murders an unarmed child, contorts a genocidal occupation into a grammar of two-sided conflict. Even borders themselves are a kind of doublespeak. Though they masquerade as natural, necessary, inviolable, they are in fact selectively porous, their uneven application governed by power’s myths. Mona Kareem’s “Ode to the Security Woman” takes place at a routine border—an airport checkpoint—where extraordinary violence is made ordinary and obscured into commonsense. Kareem refuses the obfuscation. The language is clear, what happens to the body in plain view: “Every day / she violates people’s bodies / to protect the nation’s honor.” What is mythic (“the nation’s honor”) authorizes the violation of what is real (“people’s bodies”) because empire’s imaginative geography conditions the terms of travel. But in Kareem’s poem, the reader is plainly told what the security woman doesn’t know. By the poem’s end, there is no unknowing to hide behindso what will we do about it?

– Claire Schwartz

Listen to Mona Kareem read "Ode to the Security Woman."

Ode to the Security Woman

The security woman at the airport
rubbed on my pussy
like she wants it!

She had to keep her job
interesting, they told me.

Every day
she violates people’s bodies
to protect the nation’s honor

“Grab ‘em by the pussy”
is the new war on terror

The security woman
rubbed on my pussy
like it was Aladdin’s lamp,
she wished to fold my body
like a carpet that flies her away
on a mythical tour from
Guantánamo to Abu Ghraib

The security woman doesn’t know
my pussy is too tight
for anything but love!

Mona Kareem is the author of three poetry collections. A recipient of a 2021 NEA literature grant, she has held fellowships with Center for Humanities at Tufts, Princeton University, Poetry International, Arab-American National Museum, Norwich Center, and Forum Transregionale Studien.