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Avenue Vali Asr
-- for Kholeh Lili

Susan Atefat-Peckham
April 18, 2006

From "Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora", edited by Persis Karim, University of Arkansas Press, (May 1, 2006).

We need another Rosa Parks
to pin herself to that front seat
and say, I am too old for later.

Smoke folded edges in city air.
Buses littered streets, dented, worn,
old tin cans crushed at the station.

I unstuck the front doors, pushed
the edges forward and apart to meet
the fat thumb pointing backward.

Boro Ounja! he said. Over there!
And I turned to see my place
among the colored scarves behind.

My breasts warmed steel rounds
at my ribs. I was half-sick of standing
there, breathing in wet wool

of hair, breathing in their breaths.
We are not sheep, I said, We are not
sheep. A woman turned. I tugged

at clinging cloth. Someone shushed
me quiet. Do not speak, she said,
It is good this way, without voice.

She dabbed her head and sweat pressed
through colored silk. She pushed
and shoved the heat for space.

I saw her hand grip at the window.
I heard the bustle of a large woman
behind me telling the others to hear

and peasants lolled in their chairs
up front, sunned their hairy hands
under the smoke of windows, kicked

their feet up on empty chairs, leering
into the small noises we made.
I know that words can’t help them here.

Hot breath hovers in old wind.
A folded sky spreads in Tehran.

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Stories From Iran
A Chicago Anthology 1921-1991
edited by Heshmat Moayyad




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