Reinstatement of the Rose

It’s time to reinstate the rose,
banned too long for its multiple meanings.
Without pseudonyms, the journalist has a nose
for his own noose. If only to adorn graves,

It’s time to reinstate the rose.
In streets of Karballah believer’s blood
runs like ink for the divine. Hafiz
would dip a finger to write,

“It’s time to reinstate the rose.
How else can lovers signify
in gardens of broken glass?
With kisses too forbidden,

It’s time to reinstate the rose.
The once stormed embassy is now a museum.
Students of the revolution are professors
of a thorny past.

It’s time to reinstate the rose
and return the world to poetry;
the language that governs the heart
at long last needs relearning.

AK, a Figurehead of the Revolution, Interviews the Author

AK: “Upon whose authority do you say such blasphemy
       against God, the Republic, and my own decree?

Author: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of XXXXXXXXX.
           Furthermore, my own conscience compels me to call you out
           on your XXXXX, your XXXXX of women.
           Let me then answer your question with a question:
           ‘XXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX the right to decree?’

AK: “Can you tell me why a man of my stature should even bother
       listening to some inconsequential hack? You bark like a puppy dog
       of that greater bitch, Salman Rushdie.”

Author: “God has sent me to speak for the unheard, including my own family
            who you XXXX XXXXX XXXX, and after XXXXX, lied about

AK: “Little infidel born of the Great Satan who can’t even attest to being Muslim,
      how can you claim to speak the truth?”

Author: “XXXX XXXXXXX XXXXXX! XXX XXXX by the resistance to

AK: “I have been dead several years, yet I am made to speak here.
      Just who censors whom?”

Author: “Your Excellency, I let you speak here for our readers. Yet even beyond the
            grave, you won’t let me say a word.”

AK: “Heaven will show no mercy on you.”

Author: “XXXX XXXX XXXX by the will of God.”

Agha D—

When I meet the literary historian of a nation,
he’s writing a book in his underwear,

cutting and pasting the faces of poets
into ruler-drawn boxes.

As he holds each black and white face before me,
he slices his throat with his index finger,

showing one regime in the old country
suffices as metaphor for another,

substitutions for fear the written word
with all its ambiguities

might lead others to question
positions of power.

Take this poem, for example, designed to frame
the missing men

who surreptitiously appear under the wand
of the critic’s finger,

which also arrives as warning to me,
another poet in a chain of being

bound to struggle for his voice
across the censor’s literal sword.

Ghazal Game #1

Think of the greatest love you’ve ever had ( ).
Write his/her name in the space provided_____________.

As long as you reiterate this name,
The semblance of this ghazal is complete:____________!

Don’t doubt, no matter what terror may come,
That God will fill your emptiness with Dear__________.

For me, Janette. For Dante, Beatrice.
For Rumi, Sham-y-Tabriz. And for you?_____________.

Space makes the greatest rhyme. Sufis know this,
In spite of their lust for someone just like_____________.

Now burn your useless books! You’ll learn much more
Inside schoolhouses of desire taught by__________________.

Is it so silly, making readers work?
Doesn’t most poetry ask you to find________________?

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here
To join (state your full name) and (state his/hers)__________…”

Computer code, universal language,
Breaks down when translating the essence of____________.

Would you obsess over your petty shame?
Instead, substitute it with a kiss from________________.

All maps lead you to bliss. Your G.P.S.
Just estimates the time and distance to_______________.

Before the loggers come for the last tree,
Write this last line with a sharp knife: I ♥_________________.

At this point, do you think you really chose____________?
Before you were born, you were chosen by____________!

Sonnet Ghazal

for Janette

Hafez, the baker, could see what I mean;
If she were a spice, she’d be cinnamon.

It’s both terrifying and exciting,
The idea that she’d see other men.

Oh God, I’d sell my soul to watch her walk;
Hear my prayer, and grant me this sin. Amen.

I heard the great poets of Shiraz sing
Through olive vein-lines of her Persian skin.

I know; this ghazal objectifies her,
Ignoring feminist criticism.

Reversing the Cinderella story,
She turns all princes into cindermen.

“Your next patient, doctor. It’s Roger S.”
“The one love sick for his wife? Send him in.”

The Sword

It’s true, “The pen’s mightier than the sword.”
But what cuts off the poet’s hand? The sword.

Deconstructionists unscrewed handles and
Melted metal to understand the sword.

After the overthrow of the regime,
Newly elected leaders banned the sword.

Because it hurt children, as a father
I decided to reprimand the sword.

So hot in hell the holy warrior
Fed on his frozen heart and fanned the sword.

The victim’s mother stopped eating kebab.
She liked the meat, but couldn’t stand the sword.

Please excuse my use of “the sword.” It takes
Violent language to split apart this word.

Post-Modern Ekphrasis Ghazal

Behind typical Persian images
The artist screens CNN images.

How they pierce the Orientalist gaze,
The cut and bruised olive-skin images.

Defiant Mousavi posts “not by the
hair of my chinny chin chin” images.

Since the big crackdown, we’re all wondering
What happened? Where have youbeen, images?

When I saw people die, I gave up porn
To obsess on these new sin images.

Khamenei and Khomeini for the West
Create identical twin images.

You’re in cameras while bullets are in guns.
How can you possibly win, images?

My family recalls seventy-nine
And those killing of our kin images.

Ever prescient Bob Dylan foretold
Iran’s new blown-in-the-wind images.

I click throughout the world for real answers,
I get this reply again: images.