Friday, October 22, 2010

Seven Eleven

It was a strange day. Ninety two degrees and June in San Francisco. You had a seven year old’s craving for a Slurpee even though your were twenty five,  and I had a roll of quarters in my pocket to do laundry later. Yours and mine. We stopped at Seven Eleven, remember you kept opening the door and closing it just so you could hear the bell? You did things like that back then, things I found amusing for only a little while, and remembering those same things now I realize it’s what I hated most about you. You pulled the lever on the Slurpee machine while I looked through magazines. Sometimes it was nice to take a break from all that contemplation your twenties brought, all that thinking of what your purpose is in life, why you’re dating such a loser, and just flip through pages and pages of meaningless gossip. Other people’s problems. A hand reached over me for an issue of French Vogue. Yes, Seven Eleven carried French Vogue if you can believe it. “Excuse me,” the man said with an accent. I looked up and he was wearing an oversized grey hooded sweater. The hood slipped for a second and there he was, His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama. I wanted to get down on my knees on that dirty Seven Eleven floor under those neon lights and bow. And pray. For what? This holy man, dressed like a thug even, radiated something. A glow in his eyes, perhaps the same glow the monks who came searching for him saw too. A glow that said all is well. All is well. He looked so happy and proud reading that magazine and I just stared, I mean stared so hard he noticed. “This issue I edited,” he said. His face was on the cover with a rainbow behind him. I wanted to take his hand and put it on my forehead, to make him bless me. He smiled and headed towards the register. I followed him ghost-like. I wanted to keep him away from you. I wanted everything holy and unreal about this moment to be mine. I wanted all the blessings for myself. He paid for the magazine and the Indian cashier looked irritated by the Dalai Lama’s slowness. He handed the cashier a dollar and asked for change. Quarters. “No change,” the cashier said, “none.” I couldn’t see his face then with his back to me but I think even the Dalai Lama would’ve been dissappointed. I tapped him on the back. He turned and I handed him my roll of quarters. Placed them gently on the palm of his hand as if I was the one blessing him. He smiled and he knew that I knew. He bowed slightly and I bowed back, and that was enough.  Just as the bell on the door rang and he left me I heard you slurping in my ear. I never did see you after that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear Write Her

Dear Write Her-
It’s Sunday. Which means I’m slightly hungover. The sun is suprisingly out today in San Francisco, and even though the wind is knocking everything in disorder, the outside world looks so inviting. The last thing I want to do right now is write. Last night I seemed so motivated, so passionate about writing, so dedicated to the process when I was telling the handsome German PhD student about my MFA program and that I was writing a novel. “Most people spend so much time talking about writing, and not enough people actually do it. You have to just do it,” I told him. And as the third filthy martini I was drinking began to sink into my brain, I thought of the five or six pages I’d written last week. And I wondered- would it ever be enough?

I’m not going to waste this space complaining to you. I’m blessed to have the chance to even get to do this. How many people can say they really get to follow their dreams? I can. And it feels fucking fantastic. I’m grateful, really I am. But days like today when I’d rather be watching trashy television or doing some other activity that requires no usage of my brain, days when I don’t feel so focused and inspired, which happens often, even when I’m not hungover, days where I will find any excuse, whether it be scrubbing the toilet or getting that well overdue bikini wax, if it means I don’t have to sit in front of the blank page, how do I sit down and just fucking do it? How do I push those thoughts out of my head that this is all a waste of time, a selfish act, that I will never be one of Oprah’s Book Club selections and will never be able to pay my student loans back, that I’m doing all of this for nothing? How do I find patience when I’ve been brought up in a world of immediate gratification and quick fixes? I have a story and I feel it breathing and moving inside of me, but I’m 25 years old and I’m not sure if I have what it takes to get this thing on paper. And sometimes I’m immersed in my work and feel energized and like I’m on the right track, and then I step back and think it could quite possibly be the worst thing I’ve ever written. It no longer makes sense and I just want to go back to writing poems. I’m afraid I won’t be patient and thoughtful enough, that I’ll grow tired of investing so much in this story and want to move on to something that is real and makes more sense to commit to. Something noble like being a doctor or moving to Africa and making sure everyone has clean water to drink. Do I really have it inside of me, or have I become one of those awful posers who talks the talk but barely walks the walk? Am I crawling here? Help me Write Her. Help me.


Dear S.,
After three filthy martinis I wouldn’t want to write either, except maybe if it was to write someone’s number down. We all deserve a break sometimes. And perhaps instead of getting mad at yourself for not feeling inspired while hungover, just let it go. Give yourself a break. I can tell you’re not a slacker and you deserve it. I just hope you got that handsome German guys number.

Moving on though, I want to talk about those days, I’m hoping there are many of them, when you’re not hungover. Those days that are wide and free and carry a potential for creativity, and yet you are dreading the moment you finally, after the toilet has been cleaned and your vagina is looking spick and span, sit your ass down to write. A writer is a human being, and like any human being is merely a collection of all the smart and inspiring things other human being have told her. Plus some semi-smart things she’s managed to come up with on her own. Here I will try to pass on my collection to you, with bits and pieces I’ve added on myself.

The thing that really helps me get going is to leave the house to do my work. Writing is your job, and it’s important that your brain is aware of this. The great thing about this job though is that you get to pick your own hours. Perhaps your characters are morning people, or you like working after lunch, or late into the night. My peak time, the most inspired I tend to feel, is between noon and 5pm. I highly recommend this time slot, and if you choose it I’d say get out of your sweats, gather everything you will need, and pick a coffee shop or a library if you don’t like too much noise, and go there with the intention of getting a certain amount of work done. Page limits work best I believe. The point is, make it a habit to go to a specific place with a specific goal, and thus set yourself up for the writing to happen.

Recently I spent a good amount of money to attend a seminar on publishing where accomplished writers passed on the depressing news that this was in fact harder than it seemed. And as I tried to scheme up a way to get a refund, and then as I hoarded a stack of expensive cheese onto my plate because I realized that I couldn’t get a refund, one of the writer’s actually said something useful. Something that has stuck with me ever since. First off, make sure your expectations are realistic. You’re twenty five and could possibly be the next Zadie Smith, but also you’re twenty five and probably have your head far up your ass. Meaning, your first book will more than likely not be your best book, and that getting a book deal may not happen. If you’re aware of this and honest with yourself and can somehow find a way in your lovely heart to accept this, then I believe you’ve taken the first step on the path to being a good writer. It doesn’t mean you have failed. On those days where you weren’t recovering from a night of mayhem you tried your hardest, and you will probably write something great, but just in case it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. You will still breathe and be healthy and find people to love who will love you back. You will have a bed to sleep on and food to eat and at the end of the day you will know that you have tried. And there will always be another way to make money. Selling your eggs for example.

He also said something along the lines of - writing occurs in mountains, and that it’s best to write from peak to peak. Meaning start at a high point and end at a high point. Don’t leave off at a low point, when you’ve run out of ideas and there is nothing left to give. It’s best to walk away on a good note, knowing that there is something to come back to the next day. This way you’ll actually be excited to return.

My grandfather, may he rest in peace, till the day he died was always telling me what a great lawyer I’d make. Every one on one talk we ever had eventually lead to this. And the truth is that I’d probably be a bad ass lawyer. I even thought of going to law school before I got my own MFA. But I would probably die of boredom in law school and hate the rest of my life because I was doing something that to me is uninspiring and too structured and realistic. I love creating complex worlds and characters, bringing forth the poetry of life onto paper. And yes, there have been moments where I’ve been beyond jealous of friends who were in law school while I was getting my MFA. They were buried in books and had to take seven hour exams, but at the end of the day they knew that with their degrees they could be lawyers. Getting an MFA doesn’t make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer. Nevertheless, there’s something alluring about a stable path,  about knowing there’s a light at the end of the dark tunnel. But you and I, Shideh, both know that we are not the kind of people who get off on this. We get off on sentences that make us want to be better human beings, better writers. It’s the period after that sentence we beg for, that moment of relief when we are beyond certain that everything in fact happens for a reason. It’s a character doing something we would have never expected, our stories surprising us, taking on a life of its own, that we moan about. So when you ask me what if you’re doing all of this for nothing. I say to you following your dream is not nothing. The experience of putting love and care and patience and thought into something is not nothing. You’re taking a risk in something you believe, but the trick is to believe it everyday, to never lose sight of the beating, breathing center of why you even do this at all. Because, goddamnit, there is something inside of you, and if you let it, it’s dying to come out. 

The most important thing I want to say to you is that patience is ultimately the key. Writing my first book, although was one of the most torturous and exciting things I’ve ever done, was mostly a lesson in patience. Like you, I’m not the most patient human being on Earth. I’ve spent a lot of nights getting drunk myself and sleeping with the first handsome and witty boy I met because I didn’t have the patience to let love into my life. But that gets boring, and one day you wake up next to a guy whose name you don’t remember and who’s somehow less funny when the sun is out, and you realize that you’re ready to wait it out until you find the real thing. I see writing as a metaphor for any beautiful and essential experience we want in this life. Whether it be a relationship, losing weight, kicking bad habits, creating good ones, creating something bigger than ourselves- these all require a boat load of patience. But here’s the most profound part of this whole process. You can relax and take a breath because you have plenty of time. You have plenty of time to think you’re doing an amazing job, to step back and realize you’ve missed something, and to dive right back in. Grab time’s hand, and carress it, massage it and tell it you love it, and allow yourself the privilege to take this one day at a time. The fact that you are even writing this letter to me makes me certain that you’re not crawling. Maybe you haven’t got the walk quite down yet, but baby steps, Shideh, baby steps. Be kind to yourself, and most of all believe. You’re already living your dream.

Write Her

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another Collaborative Poem With Fifth Graders And Me

Something In Somethingness

By: Ishaan, Annie, Skylar, and Shideh

Yellow surrounding me I’m drowning in my sick.

There’s nothing in a brain.

People everywhere like soft pillows.

As you know something in somethingness would

cause an overexposure to our skin.

I’ll be your telephone when I’m twenty.

People nowhere to put pencils in their pants.

Forever came and went

and still I couldn’t find you.

A Thing To Get Caught On

I keep coming back to that day by the pool
when I was little and it seemed like an ocean to me.
And how hairspray made you look
bigger than you really were,
and your nails so red I thought if I put my tongue
to one it would taste like a cherry.
I keep coming back to when you told me so sadly,
but with much assurance-
Life without love is nothing.

It’s a memory.
But it’s also a dream.
And there’s no way of knowing
that it really happened.
Except that it did.

I’m caught on it,
on those trees that hung on our words
as if they too were listening.
I can’t get it out of my head,
but I also don’t want it to leave me alone.
And I’m sure mother will soon bring
the watermelons out for us.

After my boyfriend in high school gave me a hickey,
you asked me why he was biting me.
And we laughed, but then you got serious and told me
you never knew what sex was.
It was never a beautiful thing for you,
you said you didn’t love my grandfather.
He was your cousin, a brother really,
and there is no passion in that.
I saw in your eyes then that
all you perhaps had wanted in life
was someone to want you enough
to suck all the love out from inside you.

When you still remembered things
I wish I’d asked more questions.
But still I’m caught on that day.
I keep coming back to it as if
by the broken tiles of that pool,
near the jagged rocks that lined the edge,
somewhere in the deep end
are the answers I’ve been looking for.
A way of understanding you and what love is,
and what it means to remember,
and how easy to forget.
I close my eyes, dive inside, and
reach my hands out,
blindly touch the surface of
the things you taught me long ago.

A Collaborative Poem Written By Fifth Graders And Me

Domination Poem

By: Ishaan, Annie, Skylar, and Shideh

A brick is hard and heavy.

I will let fear rule my life.

Red is dominating the world.

People underneath a bed because they’re sad.

The word almost is not in my dictionary.

Giant machine hands are ripping

everything in half.

The young ones will soon learn

that everything is a circle.

Daylight Lover

To learn how to love is a test,

a beautiful time to not dissapear.
And back then, when I didn’t know her
and women wore skirts above their knees
and walked freely on the streets of Iran,
except for the occasional ass grabbing,
grandmother didn’t cry so much.
And she didn’t have to pop
five pills to feel at peace.
Back then she wore fur coats
and pearls that slipped on her skin
as she sat cross legged
at my mother’s wedding
in a dress that made her look
as beautiful as the bride,
while she dreamt about
kissing her dentist.

She asks me if I have a boyfriend,
and then she asks me again.
And then she asks me a third time
because her mind is empty and
free of all things except this moment.
It’s a disease but it’s also
what some people call Zen.
She clings onto thoughts that seem new
and unspoken while her brain slowly shrinks.
It’s a folding upon itself,
a quiet collision of death drawn out.
First you leave the stove on,
and then your tongue
can’t catch the right words,
and the next thing you know
you’re not walking anymore
and your daughter has to spoon feed you
they way you did when she was little.
It’s a disease but its also a circle.
And you realize that life was
never really meant to be angular.
And when little children walk
past you giggling, you laugh too
because there is something in them so near
to where it is that you are going.

Grandmother looks at me and
asks me once more if I have a boyfriend.
No, I tell her again because I am certain of it,
but this time there are also tears in my eyes
and maybe she’s so empty she can feel it too.
So she drops it and tells me
that my breasts are getting too big,
and then breathes in the Santa Monica Friday
afternoon wet beach air (or just the air)
and smiles because the sun is beating
on her body and she can’t remember much-
good or bad- but she is a daylight lover, and
does not expect tomorrow to ever really come.

Monday, August 23, 2010

So, so close. I won't stop trying. Never. I won't.

Monday, July 19, 2010

For The Birds

He sits on the bench in front of the café,
and then inside the café talking to himself.

But on his feet are clean white sneakers,
on his wrist a watch with accurate time.
His hair long, unwashed.

He sits on the bench in front of the café,
and then inside the café talking to himself.

Outside he kneels on the crowded
San Francisco sidewalk
tearing up a fluffy pastry into little pieces.

He spends twenty minutes making a pastry pile.
A dog stops his owner to watch.

He cleans his always dirty hands on his jeans,
sits on the bench lighting up a joint,
letting the birds devour his pile. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bad Date Poem

 For: Safiya Martinez

I’ve been going on bad dates lately
for the sake of poetry.
So I can write good poems.
But it hasn’t been going so well.

Maybe I should try going on good dates.

But then you’d be 
reading just

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Kajik the fortune teller owns a Persian restaurant
where the only thing on the menu is kabob.
You have to call and make sure he’s working,
that it’s not too busy, that he has time to see you.                  

I order two skewers, on lavash bread soggy with grease,
a yogurt drink with a hint of mint.
There’s a round belly under his apron, like a story hiding.
And underneath the aged circles of his eyes,
the sweetness of a six year old sucking on a candy
as if the entire Earth rested inside his warm mouth.

He doesn’t say a word to me, but brings coffee after my meal.
The dark, Turkish kind where futures leave footprints.
I drink fast as two wrinkled men play backgammon,
take half bites out of sugar cubes, sip on their tea.

“You’ve almost died twice,” Kajik says, finally sitting,
examining the designs inside the cup.
It’s an excavation of broken bones.
One of the old men snaps to a song in his head,
does a slow shimmy as he wins, knocks knocks on wood.

 “Be careful with the drinks,” he continues,
stops then, “show me your scars.”
I show him the one on my wrist,
from when I was twelve and tried to scare
my older brother by banging hard on his window,
the end of the thin, stitched line, where my vein begins.
“Stay in control or you will find bigger scars,” he adds,
then sighs like his heart is expanding with
my wrongdoings, the thought of death.

He twirls the cup in his fingers,
smiling as he finds more fossils of my future,
“You like to hurry love,” he says, “slowly, slowly.
Love is patience and you’re not there yet.
But yes, you will write something and everyone will read it,
don’t ever stop doing that.”

He takes my hand inside his own,
 “You will be fine,” he says, “ just fine.”
And even though it’s just left over
coffee in a cup, my mouth tastes bitter,
and the flies have begun to circle
the kitchen in the back, I believe him.

When I ask him why he doesn’t do this often he tells me,
“It hurts too much, seeing everything.
And one time I looked into a cup and it was empty.”

When A Color Stops Being A Color, Becomes Something Else Completely

Eighteen facing seats shining empty.
School is cancelled because men have
been hired to beat those wearing green,
to go inside dorm rooms smash computer screens
break beds turn trash bins upside down.
Where does one hide rebellion?

It was imperative to have the leader's vision, and it was
announced then that his vision is this, that he elects Ahmadinejad.

They have been told green is bad.
Green is the color of Allah-hatred.
They only take orders from their superior.
He is a man of good faith,
and so they believe him.
They are promised more money
than they make in a year.
Lunch will also be provided.

The foundations of Islam and the foundations of Shi'ism and Velayat
are such that we have accepted the Velayat. When the Velayat has an opinion,
everyone's opinion must follow, because if it's outside of this there is no place for you. You're an outsider.

In Freedom Square notebooks under protesting arms,
bandanas cover warm mouths, foreheads glisten
from the sweat of remembering. Dark eyes.
Finely tweezed eyebrows. It is a sea of green.

Over 18’s went into one container and the under 18’s into the several other containers. The number of children under the age of 18 was greater. They filled three or four containers of some 25 people in each.

Old women with inflamed ankles the size of fists,
green veils cover their roots as they march, chanting
Even some of the clerics join, white cloth around heads,
hands rising to the air as if in conversation with God.
This is not what Allah meant at all.

For illiterate people and those not able to complete their ballots, you must do
so for them and complete them accordingly (for Ahmadinejad), no matter
who their vote was intended for.

Tear gas. Batons against bones buried
underneath skin. An eye desperate to shut.
It smells green, the air, as if the lentils
have sprouted, the goldfish are swimming
freely in bowls, as if spring has finally come.

Sweets and pastries were offered and the forces were organized into two shifts.

Sidewalks are blood stained,
the air burning like someone’s ashes.
A girl has been shot.
The protestors are running
the other way.

I thought that I was continuing the path of my uncles and our martyrs. All my interest and enthusiasm: to have the integrity for martyrdom.

With chaos comes heartbreaking
slowness, loudness turning quickly into quiet.
The only thing heard,
the shaking of the fig tree leaves,
green, wild with

*All quotes taken from- “Iran: Basij Member Describes Election Abuse” by Linda Hilsum

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On Being A Kid Again

Today we took a short walk in Half Moon Bay, guided by a local friend of ours. The ocean on one side, tall trees hovering above us as we tried to spot out butterflies. I walked behind my friend and tripped her, felt like a mischievous little girl again, she got pissed and chased me around, and we laughed because it felt so good to be in the pit of nature. Our phones were in our cars, laptops far away, we had somewhere to be, yes,  but it didn't matter too much because for a moment we were children again just taking a walk, in awe of everything that surrounded us. To always see the world this way, to not forget what it was like to be a wandering child, to be free in that way seems now, even in the movement and continuous flow of the city, like the only thing to do.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Conversations With Luis

(On A Bus)

He’s riding a bus
in Ecuador and I’m
in a San Francisco bed
talking stretched out
Spanish into a computer
screen, because the last line
of his e-mail said
I still love you.

When I last saw him it was only
three days after the first, he
walked into the waves, promised
not to come out until I left.
I wanted to be the girl who
stayed, but ambition was
kicking my insides, and
mother laughed when I told
her about it over the phone.
I had things to do, a bus to catch.

I think I’m a fool,
no I know I’m a fool,
better not think about it-
maybe just be foolish
this once, sip Monday night
champange, believe
under covers that romance
didn’t die-that it’s sitting
on a rattling bus saying
my name out loud.

 (A Few Feet From The Beach)

Strange number on my phone tonight- his,
the country of him entering my home.
Outside it rains even though today
was sun packed, the park full of half naked
bodies, a girl wearing socks walking
a tight rope just to see what it felt
like to move with a sole of precision.

He’s sitting a few feet from the beach
in Salinas, where he lives with his mom
and a tio, asks me when I’m coming back.
Tomorrow I say, even though we both laugh
I start thinking of ways to be next to him again,
ways of turning life into an action –
a movement, a decision.

The porch is smooth and sleek when my neighbor
steps out shirtless because I’m speaking loud
broken Spanish. It’s too late to take it back.

Cut off  silence of the night a string of
rainbow Christmas lights even though
it’s March, and the garden is empty,
except for the little chairs kids sit on.

Go back inside, warm dry house feels
suddenly alone. Wait for strange numbers,
the country of him to become my own.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

All Arrows Point Up

On the boat to Maya Bay Kitty Sak
points to the map of scars on his body,
“Tsunami,” he says, “everything turn black,”
and then he dives into the water as if he’s forgiven it.

We feed bananas to monkeys, which is easy
at first, but they want more, always more,
and by the end they’re hissing, and eventually they
become bored by us. Our lack of bananas.

Someone rolls a joint, the smell overwhelms
those who want to smoke go to the back of the boat
where everything is Rasta.

The scars are like teeth marks, except
there was no animal. Kitty Sak takes a drag,
coughs out a laugh despite his
jagged skin, “Good shit,” he says.

On Kho Phi Phi island all arrows point up,
it is the only thing that makes sense, the only way to go.

I’m enamored by the woman who runs our guest house,
we pay three dollars a night, there are no windows but I
don’t care because she tells me I’m pretty, makes
me papaya salad, crushes chili peppers into it with her
bare hands, “I find you boyfriend,” she promises me.

When the tsunami came, first the water pulled
back, in preparation, the fish scammered to shore,
and the hungry people went running into the
water, grabbing the slippery silver flesh by
the handful, thinking about how lucky they were.
How they didn’t even have to work for it.

A loud breath, everything swallowed whole,
even the elephants followed the arrows, stampeding
towards the sun, gathered those they could with their
trunks. And Kitty Sak climbed that tree, hands
gripping coconuts, waited however
long it took for everything to turn black.

May The Crumbled Mountain Find You

Monday, March 15, 2010

William Faulkner's Nobel Prize Speech 1949

I've been preparing a lesson on conflict in fiction for a Teaching Creative Writing class, and I came upon this speech. I hadn't read it in a while, but it always just lights something up inside me. Makes me want to write until my hand falls off, or at least until my sciatica kicks in again. It brings urgency to life, and makes our truths feel essential.

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Note To Self:

In Seven Bowls - On The Year 1389

In Seven Bowls – On The Year 1389

New years smells like fire,
the canvas bottoms of our feet
almost melting from jumping
over mountains of burning coals,
the things we wanted to let go of.

Zardee-yeh man az toe,
sorkhee-yeh toe az man.
Take my dirtied yellowed year,
And bring me your fresh, new red one.

New years smells like vinegar soaked
air, like copper, garlic, the sweet, dry
fruit of the lotus tree, a pink hyacinth
flower. A child, protected by all of this –
even the fish darting into each other,
fed by me, and then again by mother –
their gold skin flickering inside our lives,
as the lentils began to sprout.

Grandfather posed in the garden
wearing a half smile, a blue suit,
while grandmother dipped her calloused
feet into the pool- handed
me a few crisp dollar bills while she
spit out what was left of the sunflower seeds.

There are photographs, and then there is a
feeling like everything in the world
can be contained in seven bowls, is as simple
as the letter “s”.

New Years smells like freshly diced
herbs, buried with mother’s bare hands
under saffron coated rice–
white fish, smoked whole, our mouths full,
thin bones tickling the backs of our throats,
preparing us for spring.

When Golden Mouths Speak

Tongue in my ear at the Beauty
Bar after two for one martinis at
Café Flor with Carter and Tim,
like talking to your grandfather
except with more gold in their
mouths. Shared travel stories with
Carter, we’d been to some of the same
places. I felt old, unknowingly wise.

He said he loved her in Vietnam,
loved her on the water canals near
Bangkok, loved her even in Phnom
Phen when he saw the shrine of skulls,
when he thought there was no more
love to give. She died last month,
and I was jealous of him. Losing all
that love, that empty space inside him.

Later Megan and I buy beers, the cheap ones,
dance in the center of it all hands raised
to the sky as is if pretending for
a moment we’re not looking for love,
or a tongue, or a touch to fill ourselves up on.

We buy beers, Megan and I, the cheap ones,
ask for olives because we forgot to eat.
Stomach feels like a cave, the air growls inside.

A tongue in my ear at the Beauty
Bar, direct road to the weakest of
knees, to a shoulder, an arm spinning
me around and around, feeling that
womanly way again, finding balance
even on this sticky floor.

Tongue admires things only seen
in the dark pink light of a body
heated room. My eyes, hand, the
glowing white of teeth. The only
thing we are certain of is movement.
So we dance, dance-
fill ourselves up with that.

I hope somewhere Carter feels it too.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What I Learned When The Birds Flew Away

I like you better when you’re naked, out of
suits buttoned up shirts, almost like a child,
that easy to love. But you look at me as men
do, while the curls on your chest wrap around
my fingers. I take shade off of lamps to see you better
with, put glasses on, know then nothing
is touching you but the hands of me, the hip bone
on hip bone of the thrusting us.

I like you better when you’re drunk enough to kiss
each of my eye lids, my mouth even
though people are watching. You rub the knot
of my neck, slip your cold hand across the back
of me, you keep it there as if trying to find
something to belong to.

I like you better, when you’re definite like rolling
R’s on Spanish tongues, not smelling the sweet
frosty way she does, or looking at your watch
after we’ve only just made love.

The sky is blank then, the canvas of a crippled artist,
no flock of birds- reminders of migration, movement
beyond what no longer works – what is, always is, never

First Rejection Letter...Not So Bad.

Dear Shideh: 
Thank you for sending us "Go, Go Fatty" for the short fiction contest.

Although your story did not make our top 10 finalists, it came very close. We were quite impressed by the humanity in your writing, particularly in the scene with Mrs. Lou and the narrator.

Thanks for sending us your work. Best of luck placing your story elsewhere. 

Jill Meyers

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Zanmi Lakay

We are all aware by now of the events that have taken place in Haiti, and the hundreds and thousands of people who have been affected by this. I had the privilege of attending a yoga class, a benefit for Haiti, and met an amazing woman, Jennifer Pantaleon, who runs a non-profit organization called Zanmi Lakay. Jennifer has been going to Haiti for years now, helping street children by improving their educational and economic opportunities, as well as providing photography workshops as a means of self expression for them. Things were bad before the earthquake, and now leaving for Haiti in the next week, she's not sure which of her kids she will find when she gets there.

I know times are tough right now, but things could be a lot worse for us all, so I'm asking you to donate anything you can to the work of Zanmi Lakay (Jennifer is a volunteer, so all your donations would go strictly to the kids). Below you'll find a link to the website as well as a donor link, please let me know if you have any questions or problems with your donations. Also, if you can please forward this to your friends and family it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for your time, and I'm sure we can all take a little step to make a big difference in the lives of these children.


Like Your Hips Sway - A Poem For Haiti

The bones were found under the rubble,
the once swaying hip bones of yours,
the parts of you already suffering,
even before the ceilings crumbled, the
buildings collapsed into your bodies,
because there was never enough food to eat.

There is no medicine,
no room in the hospitals.
Dead bodies on the streets
lay still uncovered, even after a week
of the after shock.
Where do you put them? Where is there a
place big enough to fit all this sadness?

And here, we say Namaste and do your
Afro-Haitan dance moves with our eyes closed
on yoga mats placed two inches apart,
because there is not enough space
in this room for everyone’s love for you.

We give everything
we can, not because we know you,
but because those are your bones, your houses, 
your country. Because we want to see you dance again,
to rise from what has fallen, let your hips sway again
like the wild winds of this shaking Earth.