Suitcases & Theater: Two poems
Suitcases of dried limes, dried figs, pomegranate paste,
parsley laid in the sun, burnt honey, sugar cubes hardened
on a baking sheet. Suitcases of practical underwear,
hand-washed, dried on a door handle, stuffed into boxes
from Bazaar-e-Vakeel, making use of the smallest spaces,
an Arcoroc tea glass. One carries laminated prayers
for safe travel. I stand still when she smokes
esfand and fans away an evil eye. And when she asks
does this mean he will die I say yes
without worrying it will break her. Suitcases
of WMF fruit knives, of embossed boxes
with gold coins inside, the gaudiest earrings
brought for me, yellow, loud as these big women rolling
meatballs on the kitchen floor, lifting lit coals
with their fingers onto a head of tobacco.
Shisha comes from shisheh, which means glass.
Jigaram, they call me, which means my liver.
Suitcases they unpack and repack
over Iranian radio, between calls passing gossip,
the report on the brother’s liver: it’s failing, and he
doesn’t want the sisters around because they will pray
and cry over him like he’s already dead,
which he will be in a few days, the one
who asked to read my poems. Sisters unfurl
black shawls from suitcases to drape over their heads.
I carry trays of dates before the men, offer little
square napkins, thank their condolences, hold the matriarchs
while they rock. I answered yes when one asked
does that mean he’s going to die?
I dropped down against the mosque wall
curled my shoulders in
let my feet fall apart
tilting toward the rubble-dusted floor
tried to still my lashes
as rifles came clanging in
their muzzles smelling out fever
heated off a pulse
I was playing dead
between the dead
a beast caught sight of my breath
blew off my face
“Now he’s fucking dead”
Born in Istanbul and raised in the United States, Solmaz Sharif completed majors in sociology and women of color writers at U.C. Berkeley. While there, she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. She holds an MFA from New York University’s Creative Writing program, where she taught creative writing and was a Goldwater Fellow. She currently lives in New York City and is working on her first book of poetry.
Photo: bazaar-e vakil, Shiraz, Iran. Photo by Wikimedia Common.
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