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Cover story

Poem from "A World Between: Poems Stories and Essays by Iranian-Americans" - a collection of writings by 30 authors and poets edited by Persis M. Karim and Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami (1999, George Braziller Inc., New York; 352 pages).



By Persis Karim

By the time I figured out
what made an Iranian girl
it was too late.
I had already been corrupted by America,
her loose hips and ungracious manner
had watered me down further.
I couldn't even be called "Iranian-American"
I lacked the sensibility, the language,
the distaste for body hair
and the desire for a small nose.
It was too late... I'd already
become something else
and couldn't read the codes
one needs
to function
as an Iranian.
It was bad enough that I had four brothers
and a mother who wasn't glamorous,
I had learned to curse and cared more
about grades than boys.
Occasionally, when I didn't do what he wanted
my father reminded me
that I was too American...
a phrase that cut like a dagger
against the skin,
separated me out
and drove a wedge
between us.
I could never quite figure out how much
was too American.
Did he mean, don't disrespect your parents,
tell them everything,
don't sleep with a boy
before marriage,
don't give yourself too easily?
Did he mean that my American part
should not disobey his law?
It was too late.
Like all immigrant parents, he wants me to succeed,
to get an education, to be smart and beautiful
but not to forget
that I had to find a man.
"Women are like fruit trees," he said, "they have to bear children
...... or they'll wither."
When he put it like that,
all I wanted was to be
one of those hybrid
ornamental plums
whose blossoms are sweet and glorious
but fall to the ground
without ever bearing fruit.


- Made You Mine, America: Ali Zarrin

- Back to "Aftershock" main index
- Also by Persis Karim: Writers in Our Midst

- Comment to the poet: Persis M. Karim
- Comment to the editors of "A World Between": Persis M. Karim or Mohammad M. Khorrami
- Comment for The Iranian letters section

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