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Ali Alizadeh
July 22, 2006

From my forthcoming book 'Eyes in Times of War'.


I cringe (or is it shiver?)
every time I hear the word

motherland. I’d like to think
my blatant internationalism

foments the reaction. But is it
the latent fear forever held

by you, my pays natal, the terror
of un retour? I’d like to

remember the scent of your
jasmine, the ooze of

your pomegranate’s juice. But
the torture in your prisons

the sadism in your leaders’ eyes
pervade the reminiscence. I’m

drawn to the romance
of your poets, memorialised

so lyrically in the sepulchral shrines
of Shiraz. The tales of turbaned

bards drinking the forbidden,
singing the heady praises of Love

fill me with the desire
to love you, but the ubiquity

of sub-machineguns,
the vigilance of the Guards

repel. And I’ve been repulsed
across the globe. I’ve been

made thoroughly homeless. Blame
Islam? The historical disaster

of a revolution without vision?
Anti-colonialism without

the aim of ending the slavery
of the soul to the superiority

of belief? Or, as always, ‘them’:
the Americans, greased up

for devouring your oil? Blame?
No, I’m not at all interested

in constructivism. I’ll accuse,
as they say in my surrogate patrie,

‘until the cows come home’. Why
the pretentious reliance on

Italicised French words and Anglo
slang? My mother-tongue

also terrifies. Once the language of
no doubt sublime poets and ghazals;

the discourse of submission
and hatred during my childhood.

Remember your theologians
interpreting reality? I don’t want to.

I don’t know if my psyche
can handle many more nightmares.

Let it suffice that I can recall
the purges, the bruises, the glow

of the incinerations. I’ll have
you know that I now fathom what

you had in mind for me: a plot
among the ‘martyrs’

in the Heaven of Zahra
mausoleum in Tehran. Now

I hear you’re armed
to the teeth to continue your

infernal war against
timeless nemeses. Your wealthy

still holiday in Europe and plan
cosmetic surgeries. Your clerics

still issue death warrants
against ‘apostates’ and ‘infidels’. I’m

almost dead in the quicksand
of the deserts of foreignness and

exile. Do I even begin to dare
contemplate a return

to the makeshift terrains
of memory? To the localities

that cultivated my senses
of placement, to the orchards

that I wandered as a bored
child? The people are mostly dead.

The remaining form a diaspora
of regret and disillusionment. I’m,

as I said, not a positivist. Only
a fickle and shuddering ghost

rejuvenated and alarmed
by the mention of the word

For letters section
To Ali Alizadeh


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