One Language is Never Enough


My mother

sends me a message,

to tell me my Grandfather had a stroke.

She never calls when she can’t speak.

At Persian funerals everyone wears white,

and lilies shroud the dead body

in a valley of perfumed delirium.

I like the smell of flowers,

even at a funeral.

White Lillies are my favorite.

The Avesta told me that,

humans were created by the Lord of Wisdom,


Ahura Mazda,

“set in place this earth,

set in place the sky,

set in place man.”


made the first king,

one over many.

The first king set in place death,

and thus the after life.

The father of all mankind.



the first king to rule the earth.

The first man to die.

Jamshid rules the kingdom of the dead.

Leave the body exposed to carrion birds.

Leave the body far from Earth or Fire.

The sacred elements.

Watch the soul cross,

a dark river on a ferry.

Watch my feet cross a muddy river.

The cross stitch of earth and water.

This Island has a ferry too,

to take you south you to the mainland.

Every spring there is an almond blossom,

It turns valleys white.

Spring in Susaan,

brings about a white lily blossom.

My favorite flower,

but I have never been.

Susann is a city.

Like a rock in the valleys of the Zagros,

like a feather in the Tigris.

Sussan hasn’t been the same,

since the fall of the Shah.

Collapsing in on itself like a decaying apple.

The Shah fell like a collapsing house.

The Shah striped the motherland of its people.

Khomeini, the cancerous radical,

took his place.


My mother cleans the dishes.

We talk about a beach.

The beach looks like a sunset in the day.

Golden sand, covered in red beach towels.

Dotted with red umbrellas.

Dotted with English people,

with red sunburns.

‘English people do not wear sunscreen,’

Mamma Joon says.

Mamma Joon and her voice of خرد

Sunburns turn into cancer,

Cancer is like slow stroke

like the heat of forehead,

during a fever.

Death is the domain,

In which God cannot enter.


Mamma Joon drying dishes,

with sleeves rolled up.

Blue folding into olive,

to give way to bare arms.

In the evening we sleep in separate rooms,

Mamma Joon’s across the hall from mine.

When I am about to go to بخواب

I can hear her snoring,

it only ever lasts an hour.

When it was winter,

and the cold wrapped our limbs,

in fever,

she would spend her nights cleaning.

Mamma Joon in the kitchen.

I would come down in the morning to find,

the house rearranged.

It would always take a minute or so to get used to.

It felt like I was losing my mind.

The sofa would move from the wall to the fireplace.

From the fireplace to the blue door,

and back again.

Like some kind of furniture acrobatics.

Mamma Joon has always been shrouded in obsession.

with lips of whisky,

but now those lips are chapped in sadness,

and her hands sweaty with grief.


I came back to England,

To a house of pomegranates,

‘Place a انار

in the arms of the deceased,

and they will live forever.’

Mamma Joon tells me,

‘Find the biggest one.’

I pick the one with the darkest red,

like the wall by the fireplace,

like the birthmark on my Grandfather’s forehead.

We attend the funeral,

and count down the days until see-rozeh,

30 days after the death.

On the 40th day we sing verses from the Avesta.

Read to remind the dead of their faith.

I cannot read Farsi.

My grandmother says my mother stripped us of our culture.

In the eyes of my grandmother,

my mother is the Shah.

In the eyes of my mother,

she is Khomeini.


The hour of Judgment will come,

When the angel blows his horn.

Verses from the Avesta overflow,

Into the Quran.

At the sound of the trumpet,

The ground will tremble below your feet.

The sea will pour onto the shore.

Overflowing until the salt from your eyes,

linger still,

in the raging ocean.

Like a ripple in the river by my home

The sun will tilt on its axis,

and the moon will fall into darkness.

Hiding behind its second face.

The stars will hurtle to earth,

Burning fires in diluted irises,

and before the eyes of mankind the other world will be revealed.


“Hell is a place of chaos,

and the bridge between the worlds,

is thin.”

Heaven is not for those,

who Jamshid cannot guide.

Heaven is not for those who cannot see,

beyond the lies of sinners.


To be born into two worlds,

Is to be split in half,

To be split into,

two names.

To have two names,

Is to have two identities ,

Neither of which you want to claim,

In fear of offending the other.

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