Azza – “The
ceremony of grief”
Women in black rock
their bodies, beat their chests,
girl-children serve, in glass
tumblers, steaming auburn tea
baklava on plastic trays.
Here, tears flow like streams
wet the ornate Persian rugs
and in the courtyard –
where she poured kerosene on her head,
struck a match --
silver fish roam the small pond oblivious
tears soak into the soil where nothing grows
but sad sprigs of bitter herbs.
On the other side of the yard men sit
with hookah pipes, crack salted pistachios.
The butcher who was to take the girl as bride
now sits on an embroidered cushion, strokes his
twisting gray mustache.
A boy yells Daddy! in a busy restaurant
toward a man in a raincoat shaking rain
from his umbrella at the door. The man
kneels, receives the child in his arms.
Pepper in my eyes—
I knew a child in Tehran who lived two doors
every night cried Daddy! out the window
to every man passing by. Each morning his mother
explained about the war with Iraq, about the key
to paradise sewn to his father’s pants, but
by evening the child forgot, pushed open
the window to the street,
Poet and translator Sholeh
Wolpé was born in Iran but spent most of her teen years in the
Caribbean and Europe, ending up in the U.S. where she pursued Masters
degrees in Radio-TV-Film ( Northwestern University) and Public Health
( Johns Hopkins University). She is the author of
The Scar Saloon
( Red Hen Press, October 2004) and her poems and translations have
been published in many literary journals and anthologies in the U.S.,
Canada and Europe.
Sholeh is the recipient of several awards for her poetry and is the
director and host of
Poetry at the Loft, a
successful poetry venue in Redlands , Ca. She divides her time between
Redlands and Newport Beach,
California. More information: