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My mother picks up the pestle and mortar and does to saffron what the
clerics have done to her country/ pours in steaming water till the liquid in
the bowl becomes the Caspian swallowing the sun/ it smells like a home I
have not returned to in 10 years/ saffron/ pound for pound/ the most
expensive spice in the world/ worth more in its weight than gold/ if
customs found it, they would surely throw it away/ but my grandmother
is a high-stakes smuggler/ her currency is my mother’s joy/ every time she
visits, she brings some in her luggage/ and my grandmother always comes
through/ and my mother always becomes a festival of lights/ looks at my
father/ reminds him that it is her saffron/ approaches me with the same
enthusiasm I had as a boy catching a fish/ holds the small packet between
her thumb and her index finger and says/ you cannot find saffron this good
in America, Amir/ you cannot find saffron like this anywhere, but Iran/
and this is where I learn the limitations of the American dream/ that you
cannot find here what you already have/ and I laugh because if customs
found it they would surely throw it away/ and I laugh at how borders
can make the most valued feel worthless/ but, thankfully, they were not               victorious this time/ nor are they ever/ because my grandmother is a high-
stakes smuggler/ her currency is my mother’s joy/ and my grandmother                    always comes through/ and my mother loves to feed her boys/ so my
mother does what Iranian mothers do best/ and we eat until the diaspora
dissolves/ until it’s time for my brother and I to fight over who does
the dishes/ my mother exclaiming to my grandmother/ these boys are
American/ they never learned ta’arof/ I tried to teach them, but they
learned all of their manners from their father.

Purchase MQR 57:6 or consider a one-year subscription to read more. Amir Safi’s poem, “Saffron,” appears in the Spring 2019 Issue of MQR on Iran.