translated from the Persian by Hajar Hussaini

I should have recited this poem before you fell to the ground
before the heart discarded October pomegranates in Tehran 
before blowing our hair in the streets 
because the audience’s authority rendered our bodies impartial
and it’s not nighttime on our side
on our side, there was a creature scattering salt on our blood current 
and we had disputed our blood 
we had disputed our soil 
and we had paid our taxes off our veins to the passport police 
we abandoned our bodies faster than a shrapnel
return to the blood!
return to your skin 
which is devoid of memory 
to the traces of your silver flakes in the streams of Tajrish
return to the language!
to its abrasion with the sharpness of a paper’s edge and nipple  
            expel your suppressing cells 
through your tongue 
            expel your bare being 
through your tongue
            expel your alphabet’s clinical infection 
through your tongue 
            expel the lingering lipstick on splinters of meaning 
through your tongue
            expel the pinkish vomit in the refugee camp 
through your tongue 
            insert your head into your belly, then expel your unholy human 
through your tongue 

            expel your socialist receipts 
through your tongue 
            expel the clock set on your four different geographies 
through your tongue
            expel the reflection of the knife as you’re flaking your skin 
through your tongue 
            expel the resemblances of others’ words in your own poems 
through your tongue 
            expel your scheduled appointments with the bank, with Préfecture, and your lawyer
through your tongue 
            expel your blood on the corner of the public bathroom stall 
through your tongue 
return to the blood
for its permissible and auspicious 
and don’t remember any one person 
do not remember them 
because lips have their own means of forgetting 
an asylum seeker knows roasting hunted meat is more pleasant  
how can an asylum seeker forget about having been kissed
her smile emerges from a frightening darkroom of individual deaths 
however much it’s idiosyncratic, it’s public 
I should have recited this poem before I fell to the ground
I have pinned collective suffering, and it hangs on my chest 
I told the Arab man about the signs of heat in the collarbone he had touched 
I called my body homeland and told the Romanian man about the silver flakes, how they can’t keep you warm 
he threw his spear into the pond in the middle of the square to save his mother from her bedsore 
at the time, we were holding onto the vegetable vessels of Italy 
then to the fish’s mouth I said I have given ten more births than your mother
and I sank into my ashen blank skin
and I sank into my ashen blank tongue 
the rain was not equal on all floors 
the Ukrainian woman opened her umbrella 
black people started dancing in a circle 
the Arab people also danced 
I sank into my ashen skin to the point
the sun brought me blood from the sliced streets 
and the man, behind the desk, with a romantic French accent, kept whispering 
go back to blood 
because it’s permissible and auspicious




این شعر را قبل از به خاک افتادنت باید میسرودم
قبل از دل ترکاندن انارهای آبان در تهران
قبل از وزش موهایمان در خیابان 
که تن مان را اتوریته یِ تماشاگران بی طرف کرده بود 
و ( طرف ما که شب نبود)
طرفِ ما جانوری بود که در جریان خونمان نمک می پاشید 
و ما که خون مان را تکذیب کرده بودیم 
و خاک مان را تکذیب کرده بودیم 
مالیات رگ هایمان را به پلیس گذرنامه پرداختیم‌
و‌ تن مان را، تیزتر از ترکش ها، ترک کردیم 
!به خون برگرد  
!به پوستت  
که از حافظه تُهی ست 
به ردِ پولک های نقره ایت در جوی هایِ( تجریش ) 
!به زبان برگرد 
به خراش اش، با لبه ی تیز کاغذِ و نوک پستان
و سلول های سرکوب گرت را زبان بکش 
حیات برهنه ت را زبان بکش 
عفونتِ بیمارستانی الفبایت را زبان بکش
رد ماتیک بر تراشه ی معنا را زبان بکش
 استفراغ صورتی در کمپ های‌‌ مهاجرت را زبان بکش 
سرت را بکن توی شکمت، انسان نا مقدست را زبان بکش
فاکتورهای سوسیالیستی ات را زبان بکش
ساعت تنظیم شده به چهار جهت جغرافیایت را زبان بکش
انعکاس کارد بر تراش پولک هایت را زبان بکش
توارد کلمات دیگران در شعرهایت را زبان بکش 
قرارهای ملاقاتت با بانک، پرفکتور، وکیل حقوقی ات را زبان بکش
خونت را بر لبه ی سنگ توالت های عمومی زبان بکش
به خون برگرد 
که مُباح است و مبارک 
و‌‌ هیچ یک را به خاطر نیاور
به خاطر نیاور  
زیرا که لب ها شیوه ی خودشان را دارند برای فراموشی
یک پناهنده می‌داند که رُستِ گوشت های شکار لذیذتر ست 
 یک پناهنده چگونه بوسیده شدن را فراموش می‌کند 
و لبخندش از تاریکخانه ترسناک مرگ های فردی برمیخیزد 
هر چه فردی تر، عمومی تر 
این شعر را قبل از به خاک افتادنم باید میسرودم 
رنج های عمومی ام را با سنجاق به سینه ام آویختم 
 به مرد عرب گفتم رد داغ در ترقوه است که لمسش کرده ای
تنم را وطن نامیدم به مرد رومانیایی گفتم پولکِ های نقره ای گرمت نخواهند کرد  
او  نیزه اش را در حوضچه ی وسط میدان فرو برد  تا مادرش را از زخم بستر نجات دهد
و ما به آوند گیاهانِ ایتالیا آویزان بودیم
با دهان ماهی ها گفتم من حتی از مادرت ده بار بیشتر زاییده ام 
و در پوست خاکستری بی حافظه ام فرو رفتم 
و در زبان خاکستری بی حافظه ام  فرو رفتم 
باران بر تمام طبقه ها یکسان نمی بارید 
زنِ اوکراینی چترش را گشود 
و سیاه پوست ها در میدان رقصیدند 
عرب تبار ها در میدان رقصیدند 
و من‌ در پوست خاکستریم آنقدر فرو رفتم 
که خورشید از خلالِ خیابان ها برایم خون‌ آورد‌ 
و مرد از پشت میز اداره با لهجه ی رمانتیک فرانسوی زمزمه میکرد 
به خون برگرد 
… که مباح است و مبارک 

Copyright © 2024 by Maral Taheri and Hajar Hussaini. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

If you are a child of a refugee, you do not
sleep easily when they are crossing the sea
on small rafts and you know they can’t swim.
My father couldn’t swim either. He swam through
sorrow, though, and made it to the other side
on a ship, pitching his old clothes overboard
at landing, then tried to be happy, make a new life.
But something inside him was always paddling home,
clinging to anything that floated—a story, a food, or face.
They are the bravest people on earth right now,
don’t dare look down on them. Each mind a universe
swirling as many details as yours, as much love
for a humble place. Now the shirt is torn,
the sea too wide for comfort, and nowhere
to receive a letter for a very long time.

And if we can reach out a hand, we better.

From The Tiny Journalist. Copyright © 2019 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd. 

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
"If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately."

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. "Help,"
said the flight agent. "Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this."

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
"Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?" The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, "No, we're fine, you'll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let's call him."

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye, "Gate A-4" from Honeybee. Copyright © 2008 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with permission.