Muslim Madonna by Threa Almontaser

Throughout the school play, I wonder
where all the holy women are
and why holy men are so abundant.
We all start off female in the womb.
And as a girl, I want to be holy, too —
a Chosen One, enchanted by God.
Without thinking, dressed as shepherd
number two, I kidnap baby Jesus
and jump off stage. Ignoring the slew
of cries, of Sister Doris fainting,
I dash through auditorium doors,
Jesus heavy and chipped in my hands.
I keep him hidden from my parents,
tucked safely in my hijab drawer,
take him out whenever I need saving.
Each time I hold him I feel like a painting
of Madonna and Child: Tender robes
draped across my lap, surrounded by angels
as he hungrily seizes my milk, both of us
waiting for a piece of God to fall,
land on our bare heads, enchant us.
Threa Almontaser is a Yemeni-American writer, translator, and multimedia artist from New York City. She received her MFA from North Carolina State University and is the recipient of fellowships from Tin House, Community of Writers, the Fine Arts Work Center, and the Kerouac House. She is the winner of Alternating Current’s Unsilenced Grant for Muslim American Women Writers and Tinderbox Journal’s Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize, among other honors. Nominated or included in the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net, her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming from Random House, The Offing, American Literary Review, Adroit, Wildness, Frontier, Oxford Review, and elsewhere. Threa writes on the thin membrane that separates human from what we loosely call animal, and believes writing should not only entertain, but provoke. She teaches English to immigrants and refugees in Raleigh while co-organizing a reading and discussion series in the area which promotes the work of undocumented poets and poets of color, raising consciousness about the structural barriers that they face in the literary community. She is currently at work on several projects, including a debut poetry collection and her first novel. For more, please visit