Maryam Azam

Maryam Azam is a Pakistani-Australian writer and teacher who lives and works in Western Sydney. She graduated with Honours in Creative Writing from Western Sydney University and holds a diploma in the Islamic Sciences. She is a recipient of the WestWords Emerging Writers’ Fellowship and has presented at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. She is a member of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. Her debut poetry collection The Hijab Files (Giramondo, 2018) was shortlisted for the Anne Elder Award and the Mary Gilmore Award.



The Ways I Cover

In summer I answer the door wearing a hoodie
because I’d rather look like a cold weirdo
than an NESB housewife

I bring Vegemite scrolls to the staff morning tea
and say I don’t eat chicken when I mean
I don’t eat machine-slaughtered chicken.

I wear beanies & berets in winter
and a scarf around my neck instead
I don’t even look Muslim

I shake men’s hands.
I say I’m not hungry rather than ask if the food’s halal.

I go to the beach with my hair tied up
and tucked into a baseball cap
and even swim in it

we’re all worried about skin cancer right

I say hey instead of salam when
I answer the phone on the train.

I skip dhuhr prayer rather than be caught
with my foot in the sink at work.

I breathe in the guilt.