Other Mothers

Their sons who speak of a cause
As if it were their two feet
beneath them. That they could hold an idea
and a weapon at the same time.

The way they could fool themselves
Into thinking they were pure
And righteous, that the great stories
of God or country could keep them safe.

When my son handed me an Israeli army shirt,
asking me to sew a button on its collar, I knew
my refusal would be the beginning
of a long goodbye, of steeling myself

for an angry boy with an inkling
of manhood, undeterred
by what I said or didn’t say.
His determination grew
in his shoulders,
in sharp silences.

I thought of those other mothers–
their sons, who, whether with a gun or a car,
could find the white light of belief
that would sow the seeds
of an incalculable grief.

Persis M. Karim is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus an associate professor in the Department of English & Comparative Literature at San Jose State University where she teaches world literature, comparative literature and creative writing. She is the editor and contributing poet of Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006) and co-editor of A World Between: Poems, Essays and Short Stories by Iranian Americans (1999).