Written by Babak Khoshjan 
Translated by Alireza Taheri Araghi and Thade Correa
Illustrated by Neda Kia
Read by Bryant Davis 

Published 9/13/2012

Art by Neda Kia

as if it’s Iraq’s Seventh Division          in the left side of my head
as if it’s Iran’s corps                               trample trample in the right side of my head

and in the middle of the arena
the old rag-and-bone man
under all that smoke and fire
is dipping bread
in his bowl of yogurt soup
a military march playing on the loudspeaker
mortar shells whistling indifferently
and Dad’s too much a scatterbrain to see the warning sign
Dad dances with a Bouncing Betty1
and I lose all my childhood
Mom’s voice booms from the bedroom
"shut that damn thing up!"

as if a clothes line                                  in the right side of my head
as if the cotton beater2                         twang twang in the left side of my head
and in the middle of the yard
Mom is plunging me in dirty washbasin water
stomping with rolled-up pant legs
the cotton beater beats                         twang twang, twang twang
and my dad’s cotton beard floats in the air
a red alert siren is on
"Dear listeners"                                      trample trample
they shelter me in the basement
I pound my fist on the door
"I won’t do it again! On grandma’s grave!"

as if the jury                                            in the right side of my head
as if the reporters’ cameras                 click click in the left side of my head
in the middle of the court
Jean-Paul Sartre with that curling white wig of his
bangs the gavel to say
"Man is condemned to be free"
Dad in the guise of my public defender nags
"I’m just looking for an honest man"
my eyes are half-closed from the white flashes of light
"Get up, boy, it’s almost noon" says Mom
drawing the curtain

as if it’s not the executioner                 in the right side of my head
as if it’s not the waiting crowd            cheering in the left side of my head
and in the middle of the arena
I am tied to a horizontal stake
Dear listeners
this is the white alert siren
and what it means is that the narrator of this poem
is now standing on a platform
on which all problems will be erased
this is the white alert siren
you may now leave your shelters
this is the white alert siren
you can come out of your shells
this is the white alert siren



1 A type of land mine that, when triggered, launches into the air before exploding at about the waist level.

2 In Iran, a cotton beater’s job is to fluff up the cotton in mattresses and quilts. He usually does his job in the yard, stripping mattresses and quilts, removing all the flattened cotton inside, heaping it in a corner. He, then, uses a bow-like instrument and fluff up the cotton by plucking at the coarse string, holding it amid the heap. While doing this, pieces of fluffed up cotton fly in the air, like huge snowflakes, landing on a second heap that starts forming little by little by the first one. The occupation is almost dying, at least in the big cities.


Listen to this poem:


Iranian poet, Babak Khoshjan, was born in Kerman in 1980. He studied philosophy and now lives in Tehran. (Updated Sep. 2012)

Neda Kia was born in Tehran, Iran. At the age of six, she moved to Ghana with her family where she got enchanted and influenced by the African colorful textiles and mysterious nature. She got her BA in graphic design from Azad Art & Architecture University of Tehran in 2007. Interested in illustrating children’s books, she pursued her dreams in Italy and got her Advanced Illustration Certificate from Scuola del Fumetto (Comic School) of Milan in 2009. Her works have been featured in sereval exhibitions in Venice, Tehran, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Milan, and Torino. She currently lives in Canada where she works as an illustrator and an art teacher. Her works can be found on www.nedakia.com and http://nedakia.carbonmade.com/. (Updated Sep. 2012)

Born and raised in Northwest Indiana, Thade Correa is a second-year MFA student in poetry at the University of Notre Dame. He has previously studied at the University of Chicago and Indiana University, Bloomington. His work has appeared in various literary journals, including The AuroreanIbbetson Street, and Modern Haiku, and he has recently been honored with the 2012 Billy Maich Academy of American Poets Award. He currently teaches creative writing at Notre Dame and is an editorial assistant for The Notre Dame Review. (Updated Sep. 2012)

Bryant Davis grew up in between a corn field and forest outside Townville, Pennsylvania population three hundred. He attended Allegheny College and then received an MFA from the University of Notre Dame. His writing has appeared nowhere, but his voice has appeared on the radio station WARC, the television station ACTV, and now Paragraphiti where, not coincidentally, he is on the Editorial Board. (Updated Oct. 2012)