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By Ali Mohajer
May 19, 2000
The Iranian

One summer day, back in 1982 or so
I remember sitting in the backseat of the family car
Watching traffic shimmer in the heat.

We had a sky-blue Paykan I recall;
Worn, but fitting for a pair of doctors
Newly home to heal the liberated masses.

I had a language to re-learn,
Cousins to befriend,
A younger brother to ignore,
Aunts and uncles' kisses to avoid,
Revolutionary dogma to assimilate
And make my own.

So tell me father,
Now that we've grown up,
When you saw the beggar
Gimping through the haze of engine fumes,
Faking palsy (so you told us),
Did you feel betrayed?

His dragging syncopated stagger
Brought the bum within an outstretched
arm of us.

You said:

"Stop the wagging and I'll pay you."


I don't know what you thought would happen,
But the beggar fell against the car door,
His filthy, blackened hand inside the window;

You handed him your pittance smiling.

But father,

The beggar wasn't vested in the wag;
He'll shake or not depending on your pleasure.
He sold the hope that we would never ill
So long as you were there to keep us.

Pay the piper when you like the song,
And pay him double when you lead him on.

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