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.
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.
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.
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.
What sadness, being separated from home, from Khaneh—
a memory whose captive breast flutters…
from soul to soul.
Sheema Kalbasi and Ron Hudson
— — —
* 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.