Poems Against the Regime

Editor’s Note: These poems originally appeared on the website of the Association of Iranian American Writers.

persiskarimA Truth that Has Left Them Shaking

Persis M. Karim

These are hopeful, dismal days.
We sit by a computer waiting for a sliver
of light and news to cut through
darkness. Names smeared and women
weep for sons and daughters disappeared
or discovered beaten in jails.
There is an echo to all this.
This is not a revolution. Yet
we wonder what it is.
The turbaned men unleash their thugs
And on the rooftops at dusk, the cries
of young people, invoking
Allah-u Akbar — God is Great!
Today, the smoke has cleared
and streets are quelled into submission.
But my cousin’s voice through the telephone
is decidedly clear: we will never forget those days
when we walked arm-in-arm fearless
mouths silent, but hearts full
of a truth that has left them shaking.

I Am Neda

Sholeh Wolpe

Leave the Basiji bullet in my heart,
fall to prayer in my blood,
and hush, father
— I am not dead.

More light than mass,
I flood through you,
breathe with your eyes,
stand in your shoes, on the rooftops,
in the streets, march with you
in the cities and villages of our country
shouting through you, with you.

I am Neda — thunder on your tongue.

rogersedaratPost-Modern Ekphrasis Ghazal

Roger Sedarat

Behind the typical Persian images
The artist posts CNN images.

How they pierce the Orientalist gaze,
The cut and bruised olive-skin images.

Defiant Mousavi posts his “not by
The hair of my chinney chin chin” images.

Since the big crackdown, we’re all wondering
What happened? Where have you been, images?

When I saw people die, I gave up porn
To obsess on these new sin images.

Khamenei and Khomeini for the West
Create identical twin images.

You’re in cameras while bullets are in guns.
How can you possibly win, images?

My family recalls seventy-nine
And those killing of our kin images.

Ever prescient Bob Dylan foretold
These new blown-in-the-wind images.

I click throughout the world for real answers,
I get this reply again: images.

Persis M. Karim is the editor and contributing poet to 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, Short Stories and Essays by Iranian-Americans (1999). She teaches literature and creative writing at San Jose State University, and is the founder and co-director of the Association of Iranian American Writers.
Sholeh Wolpé is the author of Sin—Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad (University of Arkansas Press), Rooftops of Tehran (Red Hen Press), The Scar Saloon (Red Hen Press), Shame (a play in three acts) and a poetry/music CD (Refuge Studios). She is the associate editor of The Norton Anthology of Modern Literature from the Muslim World (Norton, 2010) and the guest editor of Atlanta Review (2010 Iran issue). Her poems, translations, essays and reviews have appeared in scores of literary journals, periodicals and anthologies worldwide, and have been translated into several languages.
Roger Sedarat is a poet and translator. His first collection of poetry, Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic (Ohio UP), won the 2007 Hollis Summers Prize. In addition to publishing articles on American poetry, Middle Eastern-American literature, and writing pedagogy, he has placed poems and translations in such journals as The New England Review, Atlanta Review, and Iranian.com. A recipient of scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and a St. Botolph Society Grant, he is Assistant Professor in the MFA program at Queens College, City University of New York.