Poems

Negative of a Group Photograph

I am younger in this photograph,
younger than anything I’ve ever written,
and I am the third missing person.
 
Inside me, undercover, my words were taking shape.
Like a moth waking from its cocoon into summer,
peering out from between my fingers,
from my hiding place, as a poet, I stepped out.
 
Keeping my heart well-hidden,
holding myself back a little
I sat exposed.
In the darkness I searched for that merciless tree
and maybe the trace of a green rope.
For you must remember Ghazaleh?
 
I am younger in this photograph,
younger than my own shadow.
Anything that I could not write
I disguised, hiding myself in my daughter,
losing myself in my mother.
We sought relief in the first sign of spring rain
but my heart will always ache with the loss of these women.
For you must remember Nazanin?
 
Those days were crazier than any war,
an almost-silence
where words were whispered fearfully
under an old army blanket.
Only poetry could hold us close,
 
when it wasn’t lost for words itself.
Between the shape-shifting letters
peeped a child’s face,
the writing all disjointed and hard to decipher.
Between winter and summer
the overcast skies pushed us apart.
Between the road that twisted around my neck
and the words that took fire in your mouth,
 
I don’t think that you remember me?
 
With a pair of scissors,
I trim away all shadows from the image
clothing us afresh for Spring.
Your lines were another new beginning,
and poetry the only fresh clothes that I knew,
a love that was more beautiful than ever.
 
We are strangely young in this picture,
our heads resting against one another,
intimate, affectionate - there I am.
 
In this stained old black and white negative
with our enormous, fixed smiles,
we faced the world, standing tall.
 
 
In memory of the poets Ghazaleh Alizadeh and Nazanin Nezam Shahi who both died young and in unfortunate
circumstances.

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