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Iran
 
photo by Thomas Langdon
Maryam Ala Amjadi (poet, translator, essayist; Iran) has spent the impressionable years of her childhood in India and writes poetry in English. She received the "Young Generation Poet" Award in the 1st International Poetry Festival in Yinchuan, China (Sept 2011) and was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in Creative Writing by the International Writers Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa, U.S.A. (Fall 2008). Ala Amjadi is the author of a bilingual English-Farsi collection of poetry, Me, I, and Myself (2003) and her second book of poems, Gypsy Bullets, was published by Prafullata Publications (India) in 2010. Her translations of the American poet Raymond Carver was published in a collection entitled, Fear of Arriving Early (Aknoon Publications, Tehran 2009). She was also the winner of the Silver Medal in the 14th National Persian Literature Olympiad (2001), and the Second Prize winner (on Gender issues in Translation) in the A.K. Ramanujan National Paper Reading Competition, University of Baroda, India (January 2009). She has worked as a Farsi-to-English news interpreter at the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), and was previously a writer for the Tehran Times Daily, where she founded and wrote a weekly page in English dedicated to Iranian culture and society. Presently, she is an editor at HYSTERIA, a periodical of critical feminisms and a PhD fellow in Text and Event in Early Modern Europe (TEEME) at the University of Kent and Universidade do Porto. Ala Amjadiís poems have been translated into Arabic, Albanian, Chinese, Hindi, Italian and Romanian.

Underneath
 
 
English version

Underneath

For Lubna Al-Hussein

The butterflies of my headscarf
are pilgrim worms that have always crawled up
the laddered gloom of my vocal cords.

And by the strident testimony of my heels
the life I walk is half dead on the blindness of scales
while the immature conquerors of our alien triangles
feed on the generous familiarity of our circles.

Tell me,
How many shrouds of laughter and wrath should we stitch
so the trampled body of this silence is never vertical
again?

The flowers of our drowsy dresses no longer wish to await
a mating wind that scatters motherless dreams
on the dizzy denial of an earth
that can offer equal warmth only to horizontal feet
and avenge the uneven passion of the pair that
treads on her.

Skirts unite the stupor of legs for
trousers to divide and rule.
Home, Bitter Home
 
 
English version

Home, Bitter Home

From nowhere
this house is three cigarettes away

They can always sniff it out
from the oil, the fathers donít bring
and the combats of combs that never run

Short of the sun,
the womenís hair never grow long
And their wombs
are wrinkled balloons
that have never soared for sour grapes

So with all the eggs on our faces
we have deadpan omelets for breakfast
and eat our hearts out of our mouths

Then we creep in to lull our dreamful beds
Heads that sleep around donít mind wakeful tales

In this house
the windows are doors-
that push faith to fate

and the doors are windows-
as they close on ceilings that floor walls

When owls hoot
We hiss hello to hand down dreams

Dream-dying
we gamble goodbye with goats
that bleat escape to front doors

The women draped in curtains
that sift the suns of their faces
always talk of here
that is heard as there

And these bricks have rats
that are never prey to ravens
but gnaw word by word
at our inhuman prayer
to humanize scarecrows

In this house
we hide what we seek
and try to find our loss
tip-toeing on our hands
in our tongue tied shoes

Until the telephone rings a bell
and we know that wireworms
have fished another voice into sounds

And so we saw
what we see
and the sea
see-saws
in the same boat with us

Yet we breathe in theirs
and brood on mines that explode
into minute seeds
but never hatch into hours
for the second
one of us turns their back
first fingers read the last words
in Braille:

From nowhere
this house is three cigarettes away.
For Women Who Were Killed in the Name of "Honor"
 
 
English version

For Women Who Were Killed in the Name of "Honor"

I will not laugh softly

to harden the hope of their hearts

I will not cover the map of this body

so they can walk all over the liberality of my borders

I will not be shamed into longer skirts

that shorten the insolence of their eyes

and I will not lower the curtains of my voice

to let them unsee the stage of my thoughts

I will not close the longing brackets of my legs

and I will not tamper with the defiant flames of my gaze

I will not walk, sit or stand behind the oblivion of men

I will not lighten the light of my kohl

or erase the persistence of my lipstick

not now, not then

I will not labor for the pieces of their egos

or stay up mending the love cords they cut

I will not, in the honor of all your names,

I will not, I promise you that!


Maryam Ala Amjadi