Sholeh Wolpé



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.


Daddy’s Key


A boy yells Daddy! in a busy restaurant and runs

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 down,

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:




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