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Birthday glossy

With their pillbox hair;
tomato-red lipstick that Elvis would have kissed;
and melon breasts bursting
the ribs of their pointed bras;
our mothers circle the table
and cheer with frozen laughter.
My chest rocks on Mother's arm.
She hoists me up like a feather
balanced on a scale
to the sugared menagerie
where stallions gallop the polo field.
Marshmallow cheeks
and wide eyes blazing,
I smother teary candles with a puff.
Six wax pillars wrap the camera in smoke.
It's all there in black and white.

The maids, our real mothers,
melt like shadows on the walls,
their wild gypsy hair
hides in shame
under the dusty scarves of Islam.
Out in the garden, our fathers
squat on silk rugs
around a sapphire pool of goldfish.
They smoke and cackle politics,
sucking Darjeeling tea
through melting sugar cubes
juggled on their tongues.

Behind the gray gate
with two white swans,
the one-hundred-year-old gardener,
once a Cossack soldier,
swirls opium bubbles
in the glass belly
of his water pipe.
His two half-Russian brats scream
when Laurel and Hardy squeeze out of the projector.
The Samovars rock like steam engines
sweating leaves brewed for fifty.
I turned six
hovering above that cake -
in the winter of '59,
when Persian mountains were covered with black-eyed poppies
and blind poets played violins.

My picture still shines,
but father is gone,
mother is eighty,
and the country folded to a prayer.
Eisenhower had an affair
with his woman driver,
It's all there in black and white.

Kambiz Naficy


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