mother’s face resembles a Tibetan miniature
found in Tashkent
and sold in Chicago

father, who, having bequeathed his soul
to us, is dead and gone,
resembled a Georgian Moslem
who might have traveled the Mediterranean, a pilgrim to Mecca

if you don’t believe me
he’s resting in the Vadiyosslam1 of Qum
dig him out
and read the lines on his face
—that is, if you can read hieroglyphs—
and if you can distinguish hieroglyphs from cancer

once my older brother worked in a factory
then he had to wear glasses
he looked like a little James Joyce sneaking out of Ireland
his wife wanted to kill him
after twenty years locked in battle
he was at last separated from his old sow
who was not unlike you distinguished men of the SAVAK
with this slight difference—she wanted to tear out his testicles with
her teeth
sometimes sister tries to act Florence Nightingale
at other times, Che Guevara’s sister
—if Che has a sister—
with this difference, her brother’s body has not been stretched on a
platform   by a colonel yet
but, believe me, her weeping is most sincere

if you want to know something about my younger brother
I should say that he is leftist in two ways
first, he is left-handed
and second, his left testicle hangs lower than his right
he has contracted mumps twice measles thrice scarlet fever four times
   chicken pox five
and gonorrhea two thousand five hundred times
once for every glorious year of the history of Iran’s King of Kings

of the character of my wife let it suffice to say
that she only lies to you
for the present, my daughter has an absent face
and my son—if, of course, he is born a son—
in the very first decade of his life, God willing,
will witness the fall of this magnificent kingdom of yours
and he will not even put you ïn prison
because you will be dead by suicide
or your friends will have put you out of your misery
—or God knows to what dark hell you will have run away

other than these, I have no family
What is the next question, please?


One day a middle aged man
Will follow you down the stairs
You won’t notice him
Only when he puts the bullet in your lungs
Through your burning ribs
You will think you should have looked back
But had you looked back
You would have found him an old man
And perhaps you would have pitied him
For the cancer in his right lung
And the weak eyes that can hardly see
The stairs, the bridge, the fences, and the doves
Playing around his limping legs

There’s a moment of loneliness in everything that counts
Or in the man who mounts the hill
To look beyond the river to the forest
Where a cottage stands like a white limpid bird
You would have loved to die there
And in the right moment
But no one dies in the right place
Or in the right hour
And everyone dies sooner than his time
And before he reaches home

Death is the limping legs of the criminal
Who runs faster than the victim’s blood
Your flesh remains behind those legs
Like an envelope emptied of its fragile check
The world forgets you
Reminding you of a sky
That shoots its hasting meteors
Out of its darkening thighs

This Issue

October 28, 1976