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The males are pregnant
The poetry of Katayoon Zandvakili

November 19, 1998
The Iranian

From the back cover of Katayoon Zandvakili's Deer Table Legs (University of Georgia Press, 1998):

Few first books of the last decade have attempted such a delicate challenge as this one. A subtle variation on Romeo and Juliet, Deer Table legs is multicultural in the widest, most generous use of that term. Sometimes locating her poems in the Iran of her birth, Katayoon Zandvakili tells more than one kind of love story in narrative filled with irony and tenderness. In "the Boy & the Girl," the face of the beloved is "the kind of face that sits by the fireplace, / listens into the night, wears the sleeve of years." But in "Jerkfish," "Your face came into mine / with the brilliance of teeth, loud water promises." With titles as enigmatic and illusive as those of Wallace Stevens, these poems verge on the dreamlike but hold always to a dramatic clarity.

Zandvakili lives in Piedmont, California, and writes for Publishers Weekly. Her poems have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Five Fingers Review, Hawai'i Review, and the anthology A World Betwee: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans.

Two poems:

* Deer Table legs
* the Boy & the Girl

Deer Table Legs

This is where you live with no further patience for Chess: the etiquette of fan and smile, sloping back.

The men I met fell from the tops of sentences. They promised hot-air balloon rides, would've stolen sheep. On the way up the mountain they held silent. (Silence is power, the book said.) And in the winter of my young year, when I was desperate as wind, they laughed. It cannot be, I thought (am thinking it still) -- but I talked to them, one by one, and they laughed. In the same way perhaps that they didn't klnow about what had gone on before -- like the rupture, burst -- didn't know about the guide, it happened often enough. So I granted them interviews; they came to my photo shoots.


We enter houses in fields ringing with thistles and impatiens (home, moody). Death comes later, in public: the smatter of white pavement, classic boots. Long arms in dark jackets. Monday follows Thursday. You leave the elevator and kiss me hard for good measure: step away like a faint red leaf --
Night carves out toy bridges.


I saw her leave the book, saw the sun on the tabletop, knife on the bread. "Bagel" became "bread." I was writing for all time.

I am going to hold your baby. A sunny, clear picture. I want to understand the different waves of his head and body, the smiling eyes, the other riding out of me.


he says he has never seen the ocean
and looks around the room nervously as Christopher Robin would
climbs out of the car and says he'll be right back
he pours coffee in a thermos and I watch like mermaids breathing
a leg of weight draped over me (: in the attic, a paperboy hat)
he calls people to say he's made love -- oh no, they groan in
Chicago -- when all he has done is kiss my hand like a stolen statue,
dropping to his knees as at deepest wood
the round of his white shoulders
at twilight we were on the bleachers by the river
.......... he was learning to run


But what of macadamia nuts/salt/a television producer/public battles
in South /Carolina and baths
This man and woman/kissing/at our shared table are/not married. She
is/plain and he is/rich. They/kiss again.
The woman/at the other table has/on the same exercise/socks I have in
a drawer at home./
He leaves. I am working, I really am. His pants sag.
The rest of the day is accustomed exhilaration: spins.


You give me your money because you love me. We enter each other at night. Sometimes, we don't have to but we do anyway.
We could've left it for another time. Hands trail.


You scoffed at Grace Cathedral, the lamp overhead. Felt your teeth grow, the fine hair.

I was 27 and you were 28. We touched (afternoon teapots, deer table legs) in profile, startled by the word "we."

I wanted to make a film about cab drivers in other cities -- not really, I wanted to want to.

In Europe, they wear wedding rings on the other hand.

The men I met, each one, an unspoken name living in a house on a beach. I made blue glass-cathedral slivers in a cone of tangerine night. No man could take that sort of life away, and no woman. Dog noses, like moose, were okay.

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the Boy & the Girl

Sometimes you look at a boy and he looks at you from
across the street for the first time like you
share a secret, when you don't want to share anything.

And there's the bridge of death (after
sex:) silver-grey mostly and traversed by
a white horse.

He makes you feel the wanting you have in common,
the have before had. He can't give you anything,
he says, has nothing to offer. ........ O how you lie,
........ .you think, seeing his hand, his shirt
........ .and feet -- you, in lemon sheets.
........ .You are thin, he says.

His face, the second face you hold, you know
you are going to be looking at for a long time.
It's the kind of face that sits by the fireplace,
listens into the night, wears the sleeve of years.

You are tired of playing
games. So you state
your intentions. I want
to grow seahorses, you say.
The males are pregnant.

The first boy, when he kissed you, he
kissed you with lots of saliva.
He said what it feels like to hold a trembling
woman in his arms.

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Katayoon Zandvakili's Deer Table Legs is available at

Copyright © 1997 Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form