Refusal

And so, death showed up every morning
as a first thought, with our school principal
shepherding us seven-year-olds down the streets,
making us chant, “Death to America,” setting
fire to the stars we were yet to count, wishing
death on a nation none of us
could begin to know.

We were the children of the dead, priding
ourselves on all the “heroic” ways in which
our dads had died as “martyrs,” mastering
words that denied us an idyllic childhood:
shrapnel, missile, and RPG, which sounded
like the coolest word to leave our mouths

War-loving men fail to understand:
your father being summed up in a stack
of letters and a stoic portrait; seeing your
friend’s blind dad walking his son
to the school bus every morning,
waving to him (the son would wave back);
eyes rolling at the curious question:
Where is your dad?
 
“Dead,” I’d respond, refusing to dignify
death—the finitude of flowers and the
persimmon trees in my grandmother’s
house yard. “Dead,” I’d say, though
he died in a war with his Iraqi enemies who
could have been his brothers in another life.
 
But I do not want John, my best friend
from my time at Saint Mary’s College,
who happens to be serving in the US army,
to simply scan my hometown with unseeing
eyes from thousands of feet above;
a “reconnaissance mission” over
the city where I have grown up,
dreamed and fallen in love.

Siavash Saadlou

Siavash Saadlou is a writer, translator, and teacher. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Saint Mary's College of California, where he was also an English Composition teaching fellow. His fiction has appeared in Margins and his poetry in Scoundreltime and Saint Katherine Review. His translations of contemporary Persian poetry have been published in Washington Square Review, Pilgrimage Press, Visions International and Asymptote, among other journals. Saadlou lives in Tehran, Iran.