How can I live through another day of waiting? Rain falls down the window slowly in drops that signal a harsh winter ahead. Too long alone knitting sweaters, sipping tea, dreaming my husband and children in my arms again. Faces rise in flickering candle light; in steam above boiling rice: visions of the day I leave this place forever. I wait for my oldest son to deny his birthplace, become another citizen. And for my husband who will also raise a hand, white palms shining, and pledge a new allegiance.
I saw a woman with dark eyes And dark hands like my wife’s Squeeze a honeydew, then inspect The imported Japanese pears.
Here, over-stacked oranges drop To the floor; avocados soften And rot underneath their bumpy skins. In Iran, my wife buys Sugar with ration coupons.
She dies with her country A little every day, dreaming Of a life with her children In another. I wait for her. A foreigner at 53, I learn English In a class for refugees, Watch my daughter study history From a country not her own, Wait for my sons to come home tired From work, and think what can I do Once I learn the language?
On these brisk fall mornings, I walk past a cemetery Beside an apple grove, Think hard for a new purpose, Think how short my history here When my bones lie in this land.
THE FIRST SON
The streets are black currents of floating chadors, the radio is monotonous voices of propaganda, and the young are brainwashed into martyrdom in that country they call home.
Tomorrow I will ask to bear arms for America. I will say Yes, meaning no, meaning never, because I do what I have to do. As the first son I must think of the future, sacrifice to my parent’s sacrifices, decide on their lives here, my sister’s life here, And I have a wife. Whenever I go too far back in time to summer evenings with my family, to the flickering neons, the clicking high heels, the kebob-to-go shops of Pahvlavi Avenue, I am bruised with grief.
But what makes the immigrant spirit are dreams of a life to be, not one dead and gone.
THE SECOND SON
Being the second son for some Is a curse. He convinces himself He is loved no less, But knows if both brothers were starving Which one would receive his mother’s food. A blessing for me, really: Freer of obligation, I can still choose Iran as home Though my family with by in America.
I cannot forget my country When some day the borders will heal From war and open to trade, When the streets will stream again In blues and yellows and oranges, When the painter will pain more Than just a mullah’s face, And dancers will drown again In the swirling phrases of Hayideh.
*Hayideh – a popular female singer in Iran
I am incomplete in this country, without my mother, my cousins, without strangers who know my native tongue, without the familiar dark eyes and faces, like my own.
Fashion, and trends and items on the grocery store shelves are foreign, as are movie stars and TV shows, as are so many of the light eyes and white faces.
I am here by my parent’s choice, by their determination “for a better life.” So each day I learn more English words, and become the stronghold they need me to be.
-- Yvonne Higgins Leach earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Washington State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Poetry from Eastern Washington University. Over the years, she has been published in literary magazines and anthologies in the United States. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blue Lake Review, Breakwater Review, Carquinez Poetry Review, Chaffin Journal, Cimarron Review, CQ (California Quarterly), The Distillery, Eureka Literary Magazine, Evansville Review, Hazmat Review, and elsewhere. Her first book will be forthcoming from WordTech Editions in June 2014.