My Dear Readers:
Below is a poem I wrote for my daughter Parisa when she was just starting college (at age 17) and returning from a summer trip to Iran.
Of course, she’s the daughter of her Iranian dad too,
Which has something to do with my writing this poem.
Sprung from the womb of an “African American”
And the loins and lungs of one called “Iranian,”
She draws from each side
Deeply, without measuring--
And stakes her claims
On her own terms.
She’s the pint-sized one
With the curvy hips,
the curvy lips,
and the jubilant hair,
Tremendous and voluminous--
Like the words that come spilling
Out of her spirit.
I was there when she took
Those shears to the bathroom,
Snipping the long, loose locks
Of her girlhood,
Facing the woman looking back from the mirror,
Felt them cascading softly
To a pile on the floor.
She’s the one who embraces a world full of colors.
If it starts with the glossy brown of her skin,
It spreads and spirals into thousands of timbres,
Filling up crevices in both East and West.
It has wrapped her in the pinks and greens and corals
Of the skirts that hug and the boots that sass.
And has draped her with the golden softness of scarves
Or a smart black trench coat on the streets of Tehran.
It has brushed her ankles with flaming red poppies
And the ripened color of billowing wheat.
It has bathed her shoulders in yellow sunlight
And cloaked her in an azure blanket of sky.
She sits quietly under a feverish moon
that she sings to in Farsi on a hill in the village.
The stars sing back and she feels contented
Till the yearning for another homeland calls her.
Don’t ask her to choose between one or the other--
She is Black.
She is Persian.
She is Both.
And you’d better know
She is far more than that.
Dr. Leslie Ahmadi discovered her intercultural calling in her parents’ home at age four--where between the jazz, the spirituals, and the rock ‘n roll music, she heard folk songs in languages from around the world. Thirty years later she had a doctorate in foreign language and culture education--and her folk song guitar never far away.