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poetry I Am a Refugee

The Persian poet Majid Naficy fled Iran in 1983 to live in exile in various places, currently in Los Angeles. His poetry here addresses the sense of loss, the urge to create roots.

I Am a Refugee

By Majid Naficy

For Zohreh

I'm left alone in this big elevator
With a dream of a piece of land in my head.
Down there:
A refreshing scent of lawn,
See-saws, swings, roller-coasters,
And the honk of an ice cream truck.
Up there:
A depressing letter from Iran,
Old pictures,
Hard French spelling
And unwashed dishes.

I am a refugee.
I heard the news of my husband’s execution in the foyer
Where the telephone never stopped ringing.
In the dining room we put his picture on the wall
And along with Chilean refugees we held a moment of silence.
Rosa was restless,
And no one knew French.

Since then four years have passed.
The Chileans have returned to Chile
Rosa speaks French,
And my hair has grown gray.

My neighbors are all Arab workers.
Every morning we take our small kids to school
And come back with big baguettes.
Sometimes we get together at CGT parties.*
We smile at each other
In a crowded dance,
And watch fireworks, and political films.
The weight of Rosa doesn't allow me
To see the defeat of fascism.

At the time of our escape to Turkey
Rosa was eight months old.
But her father was arrested
Two days before our departure.
All along the way
From the gate of Khoy in Iran
To the lake of Van in Turkey
Someone was pulling me back,
But I did not let go of my horse's mane.
All hills were full of flowers,
And there was no sound but
The whispering of our Kurdish guides.

Istanbul was only a hotel for me
With a constant flow of refugees,
Water shutoffs and police raids.

Now I am in the city of Lyon,
Lenin Boulevard, Building 23.
Have I left something somewhere?
I push nine and come back.
When the elevator opens,
I hear nothing in the dark hall
But the barking of our neighbor's dog.
I return to the elevator.
“Hurry up! Rosa will get restless.”
Two empty eyes look at me
And an open mouth asks:
“Quel étage, madame?”
I push the button and stand silent.
Is there a piece of land where I can find peace?

May 20, 1987

*- “General Confedaration of Labor” in France.

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Majid Naficy, the Arthur Rimbaud of Persian poetry, fled Iran in 1983, a year and a half after the execution of his wife, Ezzat in Tehran. Since 1984 Majid has been living in West Los Angeles. He has published two collections of poetry in English: Muddy Shoes (Beyond Baroque, Books, 1999) and Father and Son (Red Hen Press, 2003) as well as his doctoral dissertation at UCLA Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature (University Press of America, 1997). Majid has also published more than twenty books of poetry and essay in Persian.