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Bahman Mohassess. Untitled. 1994. Assemblage.
Bahman Mohassess. Untitled. 1994. Assemblage.

For fariba

When he said
they’re deaf, dumb
and blind; so they will not return,

God meant had we died
in her arms,
my mother would’ve carried on

spoon-feeding until certain

we were safely enshrined,
our halos on exhibit.

Nor did she turn to salt—
even now she looks back though unsure

of what exactly was looted the year the milk

of the rubber tree on the back porch dried up.
She couldn’t hear but they carried away

the grating rattle of her pots,
giggles that died
at dinner. Hunger

stayed and reached with our thin manacled mouths

for rationed wafers that perched

higher on the shelf where nothing
wished to be disturbed.

It wasn’t like an earthquake—

my mother couldn’t hear the night sky
rip into starry strips,
she felt the warheads rumble,
listened with her feet
she kept flat under the table.

With two gold bangles chiming
on each of our wrists and the double-strand

of jasmine wilting on our chests

my mother had meant to say

we were believers
though she’d never read the Qur’an
nor heard the azan.


The poem first appeared in the journal Southern Humanities Review and it is collected in When Your Sky Runs Into Mine published by Elixir Press (Feb 2023).


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