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The traitor


Ali Alizadeh
October 31, 2006

From my book 'Eyes in Times of War'.


We wept and cleared the land
of their barbwires and bombs.

Their calloused victims
we cheered with our victory.

The ruins of invasion
we set to reconstruct with

the songs of resurrection
tingling our moistened lips.

Reconciliation? That too.
And retribution

we sought from the ousted.
How our children

rejoiced at the ecstasy
of our revival. But did they

laugh with joyfulness
or snigger with mischief

and unconscious fear? We
should have granted

closer attention to the
expressions of our ‘hopeful’. We

busied with the tasks
of intrepid restoration

and justice. ‘Revenge’
we forbade as a word

but in action? Traitors
we indoctrinated in sedition

and punished in public. The nooses
rarely free of the necks

of vicious collaborators. And
our early songs of hope

now lumbering overtures
of nationalism and grievance. Did

our leaders succumb
to mere temptations of might

or something altogether
more terrible, as the piles

of dead ‘traitors’ mounted
higher than our reclaimed and revised

national landmarks? Our flag
the embodiment of all

our heritage, our religion, our pride
and other mythic colours

flapped higher than our leaders’
intrigue and rivalry. Then

the war with barbarian neighbours. I
enlisted to fight for our freedom

to be entrapped in a charred trench
for weeks, months, years. The reek

of my comrades’ cadavers
rotted my nose; the sight of their

decomposition … how
I began to snigger with horror

like the children who now
brutalised by the coarse notes

of our symphonic national anthem
marched and brandished guns

beneath the cutthroat and vehement
sneer of our Supreme Revolutionary

Leader. They declared me
unfit. I agreed wholeheartedly

with their dangerous verdict. They
replaced me with a less sentimental

freedom-fighter. Delirious
with what I’d seen in the battle

and naturally haunted by the face
of the ‘elitist’ ‘counter-revolutionary’

I myself had hanged
during the early years of Liberation,

I spat at our national flag
and farted with all my intestinal vigour

during the national anthem. They
shaved my head, branded me names

that I finally found incomprehensible
and, though left to survive

unlike so, so many others
the blisters of the word ‘traitor’

still sting my flesh, so many years
since the Revolution ended.

For letters section
To Ali Alizadeh

Ali Alizadeh


Persian Poets
By Peter Washington (Editor)


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