after Agha Shahid Ali’s “Arabic”
At springtime—Persian new year—we circle around the warmth of bonfires to chant, Give me your color, take back my sickly pallor. There is rebirth in this language.
A groom exchanges vows with his Persian bride in a foreign tongue. May their lives be sweetened with sugar, we pray in this language.
At a performance of classical Persian music, our mothers dry their eyes with discarded scarves. They wet their parched throats with the song of this language.
Rumi’s Masnavi extols the spirit’s breath—a scent as enduring as Persian roses. We speak of love in terms that English cannot fathom (only in this language).
From exile, our cousins write letters smelling faintly of dried Persian cherries—acerbic but fresh. Their lips have tasted the bitter remnants of this language.
At an exhibit of Persian miniatures, our mouths grow silent, but in the blending of browns, we find what we had forgotten—the tapestry of this language.