The first anthology of writing by women of the Iranian diaspora, Let Me Tell You Where I've Been features over one hundred selections of poetry, fiction and nonfiction from over fifty contributors. This anthology explores through literature the influences of history, revolution, war, exile, and immigration.
We present to you two poets from this wonderful collection, Esther Kamkar and Katayoon Zandvakili.
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Words to Die For
By Esther Kamakr
I read that the Russian poet
Osip Mandelstam was ordered killed
because he'd likened Stalin's mustache
to a cockroach.
And I heard that Moosa, my father's cousin,
was executed because he'd sworn
loud enough for the guards to hear
that His Holiness, the Imam
was fathered by a dog
and mothered by a whore.
And I met a woman
who was half crazy.
she'd visited her two daughters in prison
once a month for ten years
and brought them care-packages
of birth control pills.
She said: Their faces were yellow like turmeric
It was all in their eyes.
In my mother- tongue we say
that a desired woman's body
is like peeled peaches,
that she walks like a drunk peacock
and sees with her deer eyes.
we say that a child's body is as pure
as her mother's milk.
Where I come from
these days they don't execute
First they rape them
they shoot them.
Esther Kamkar's poetry is as changing as the ocean, as passionate as a pomegranate tree in blossom, as deep and clear as a pool in a mountain stream. Her poems are lovingly crafted, utterly honest, full of evocative imagery and awakenings that bounce around in our consciousness—to be enjoyed again and again, like a favorite book or work of art. Esther Kamkar's wish? That her words may inspire you and speak to your own poetic and artistic voice. Go ahead, immerse yourself and enjoy. More information about Esther Kamkar.
By Katayoon Zandvakili
that psychic businessman in Paris in a three-piece brown suit
who stopped outside the Ritz
where the wind rose up, in Paris, and with it my raincoat;
I was nineteen then
and his friend stood a few feet behind, laughing,
shaking his hand with the cigar in it, a rich black briefcase in the other,
(the man talking to me had a brown alligator briefcase)
saying his name, saying to come on, let it
go, it's just a girl, laisse-la, oh la la; but the man in brown,
kept looking me in the face, impassioned, alert,
speaking softly, urgently, saying, Grace à bon Dieu qui m'a donné ces yeux, (he looked like Rilke, with his pince-nez, his thin frame)
and I was
trying to follow him, I wanted to, in those phrases like half-gasps I emitted,
forgetting all my French in the gathering rain; and watched him,
realizing how far behind the sense of his words I was
even though I understood him and wanted to.
He looked at me with Rilke's eyes and said
with a sweet, resigned sadness, Even though you do not understand,
you are the most charming person, woman, he'd ever met,
he wanted me to know, and that if things were different - under different circumstances -
his friend had stopped guffawing here, stopped swinging his rich black briefcase and turned to look at Cartier's jewelry cases; this was serious; - he would
leave all that he had behind, leave it all, and follow me to the ends of the world.
I was nineteen and stared at him on that cobblestoned corner in Paris, my hands finding the lining of coat pockets, and going cold.
I can't remember how we left it, except I think he grabbed my hands to further make his point.
I have tried speaking about this three times. Each time my listeners laughed until I saw the joke in it too. Yes, of course, how ridiculous. Yes, a pickup. Yes, I see your point. So I believe I have never spoken about this. Now periodically, when things aren't working out for me, I stop and think to my man in brown in Paris, how he saw me when I couldn't see myself.
And I think of my husband Tom,
whom I call Your Grace, who cares
what happens in this world,
about his children, the news - they lay garlands at my feet, he called
to say after a meeting - and I love him for it.
I fling out on occasion, all the while thinking of
things I saw in a stable years ago
when I owned a black horse,
the grass and green, the late afternoon
light on the hay bales flooding them like honey,
while the anxious horses nickered for their meal
And then the horse named Stripes
whom they had castrated that
(I'd never kissed a boy and my hair was long)
Stripes running from one end
of the arena to the other, Blood running down
his legs (I thought at first he missed his pony friend,
because they were never apart), but the blood ran down
his legs and Stripes shrieking hollow and thick, but there was no one to hear
(I was at the fence now, fingers in my pockets)
the jiggling blood as I followed the toss and snort of his head,
he ran up to the fence and away again as if there were no one there to hear
or as if he were a ghost, reckless and abandoned,
his neck and eyes swollen as he ran, not stopping,
like a wooden horse of infinite feeling, infinite pain.
(from Let Me Tell You Where I've Been, Univ. of Arkansas Press)
Katayoon Zandvakili's collection of poetry, Deer Table Legs, won the University of Georgia Press Contemporary Poetry Series prize, and the book's title poem was awarded a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been anthologized in American Poetry: The Next Generation, A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans, Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond, The Poetry of Iranian Women, and In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself, Volume 8. She has been and published in journals such as Lumina, caesura, Five Fingers Review, Rattapallax, Arte East, Private Photo Review, and narrativemagazine.com. Visit her site.
Katayoon's latest projects include the novel My Beautiful Impostor, a second volume of poetry, Ossian: The Girl King Sings Songs of Epic Leaving, and the screenplays Wonderful Her and To Live As I Like: The Marie B. Story.