A TSA agent lifts your nursling

from your arms.

Flagged, he says.

Just a baby, you say.

 

The white man behind you

navy tie, slightly loosened

who’d just been cooing at your little one—

fiddles with the cuff of his starched shirt

steps

around you

feeds his briefcase into the bowels of

the x-ray machine as if

you never existed.

 

The agent takes your baby

a few feet away

a few feet away

is the length of a football field.

 

Your breasts weep, leak milk

down

the front of your shirt.

 

Travelers with tunnel vision don’t notice

or, more likely, don’t care

your diapered child

just out of

the womb is

suspected of terrorism.

 

The agents

examine your baby like

produce.

Is it overripe?

Do these folds of dimpled

flesh foreshadow

decay?

 

They’ve forgotten about you,

the mother

lost

without your daughter

breaths trapped under your lead diaphragm

whispering promises

the baby

won’t bomb the plane

except

you can’t use the word

bomb.

 

Anjali Enjeti is an award-winning Atlanta-based journalist, essayist and critic. Her work has appeared in The Georgia Review, The Paris Review, The Nation, Washington Post, Newsday, Al Jazeera, Longreads, Guernica, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Reinhardt Unviersity and currently serves as Vice President of Membership for the National Book Critics Circle.

What unnecessary scrutiny have you been subjected to or witnessed going through airport security? Tell us in the comments.

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