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poetry Welfare Queen

The exiled Persian poet Majid Naficy draws on Christian parable (the Book of Matthew), suggesting that some of the irate voices on our streets are not enemies but prophets.

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Welfare Queen

By Majid Naficy

Here she comes
With incessant shouts
And two fiery eyes
Which like dying candles
Have suddenly inflamed
Before they finally burn out.

Passersby
Change their direction.
A man takes refuge
In his car,
A woman grabs her daughter’s hand
And crosses the street,
And I shelter behind a tree
Thinking to myself:
Perhaps she ran out
Of her pills
The day the Governor
Closed mental hospitals
To cut the budget
Or the President
Called her “a welfare queen”
To make a public enemy.

And yet
She doesn’t even have a shopping cart
To make a barricade
Or a walking buddy
To give her a hand.
Thus
She shouts incessantly
Until a hand
Puts a red robe
On her shoulders,
A crown of thorns
On her head
And a reed cane
In her right hand*.

* Matthew 27:28-29

Majid Naficy 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.