The Secret


I am a woman. Simply.
To look at me is a sin —
I must be veiled.
To hear my voice is a temptation
that must be hushed.
For me to think is a crime
so I must not be schooled.
I am to bear it all
and die quietly, without complaint.
Only then can I be admitted to the court of God
where I must repose naked on a marble cloud
feed virtuous men succulent grapes
pour them wine from golden vats
and murmur songs of love…
Sholeh Wolpé

That old man sitting on the bench
is you, a little boy biking around
Your hair is now white, spread
by the traces of age
and I? My youthful skin
has persistent wrinkles of regret
Mahboubeh Shadzi

Locks on the bolt
Secrets behind the doors
And the moist Jasmine perfume
Panting at the night
The jar of thirst in a summer afternoon
This musky willow shade and I
These birds and I, do not sing!
Mahshid Naghashpor

From the Poetry of Iranian Women. Edited by Sheema Kalbasi.
Copyright ©2009. Sheema Kalbasi. All Rights Reserved.
Sheema Kalbasi, born November 1972 in Tehran, Iran, is a human rights advocate, an award winning poet, and literary translator. Kalbasi is the director and the co-director of several literary projects including the the Other Voices International Project Anthology. She has published two books of poetry and two anthologies of poems. Her poems have also been anthologized in several literary periodicals. Her poetry has been translated into eighteen languages to date. She has co-authored more than 50 poems with American, Italian, Egyptian, Iranian, Indian, and French poets in English. Kalbasi’s work is distinguished by her passionate defense of ethnic and religious minorities’ rights. She has done voluntary teaching and tutoring of Baha’i refugee children as well as Iraqi Kurdish children, and disadvantaged Pakistani children in Pakistan.

Kalbasi has worked for the United Nations and the Center for non Afghan Refugees in Pakistan, and in Denmark. Today she lives with her husband and children in the United States. In 2009 she signed an open letter of apology posted to along with 266 other Iranian academics, writers, artists, journalists about the Persecution of Bahá’ís.

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