Tehran I She smiled and spoke softly of Tehran and her family, of her uncle who left to buy bread, never to return home again. He was found a month later, bullet-ridden in an alleyway, once Khomeini had returned home.
Terror filled our expatriate hearts at the taking of the Embassy and at the thought that our youth would be lost for a war that we did not desire. Perhaps out of sense of responsibility, or because they, too, felt exiled in France, our Iranian friends invited us to meals or offered us rides when we faced long walks to and from home in Montpellier.
Decades later, I attended a concert of classical Persian music. Luck would have my friend Sam and me seated in the very front row as Shajarian “The Iranian Pavarotti” sang. At the end of the concert each musician bowed and placed his hand over his heart before reaching that hand toward us, the audience: a loving gesture… from their hearts to ours.
Tehran II When the students scaled the walls of The House of Satan — their name for the U.S. Embassy — I would cry myself to sleep in fear of losing a loved one to the men, those handing out red flowers while holding machine guns.
Soon public executions began – mass murder of dissidents and religious minorities; stoning, arbitrary arrests, flogging. Countless people were buried or burned.
We feared and trembled with eyelids closed, a frightened gesture, a fearful prayer… from our hearts to theirs.
Tehran III We ate dates and pomegranates by a pool in the North Carolina summer sun. A young Iranian man, soon to be a doctor, bristled: “We are not Arabs,” he said defensively and proudly. “Our heritage is much older, more fixed. The Arabs wander. We just want to return home.” When asked if he were gay, he denied it, saying that his homeland would never allow it. He would be gay for now, but on returning home, he would marry and father children, fitting in without remembering his bliss with men.
A sadness fleetingly crossed his face on thinking of his choice to live genuinely or genuinely to live.
He studied a leaf of grass between his fingers: a nervous gesture, an unsure smile… from his face to mine.
Tehran IV I sit behind the desk in my New England home and feed the birds of my thoughts. I recall the blue Lake Sama with its blossoming pond lilies, Tabriz, Mashehad, Esphahan and Shiraz. My city, Tehran, sitting by the mountains, under the white blanket of snow or next to the sanctuary of a rock, somewhere between your spring and mine. The footprint of the flower seeds readies itself to dress the highlands in splendor.
Beautiful women and men, like the shadow of a winter fog, are trying to defeat their faith and I write so I do not forget the beauty of the sleeping fields where I once lived and breathed the air.
Tehran the city of lights, the crowded green parks and kind people. Tehran, the city of beggars, where gay or straight you are buried alive by the grief. Those hands outstretched, those tears flowing… from their pain to mine.
Tehran V What sadness, being separated from home, from Khaneh— a memory whose captive breast flutters… from soul to soul.
Sheema Kalbasi and Ron Hudson
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* Khaneh: Persian word for home.
Sheema Kalbasi (USA): She is the Director of Dialogue of Nations Through Poetry in Translation, Director of Poetry of Iranian Women and the Poetry Editor of Muse Apprentice Guild. Her works have been published and translated or are forthcoming in various anthologies, literary journals and online magazines. See her weblog. zaneirani.blogspot.com.Features in iranian.com
Ron Hudson (USA): Born in Sampson County, North Carolina in 1959. He studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he received degrees in French and Chemistry and at L’Institut des Étudiants Étrangers, Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier III in Montpellier, France, where he received a Diplôme Supérieur d’Études Françaises, 3ème Degré. Hudson was diagnosed with HIV infection in December, 1985. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he endeavors to educate about HIV/AIDS in the US and around the world. Visit his weblog at RonHudson.blogspot.com and you may write him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.