To Rom, and Parichehr
Today I met Iranians who don’t hate Arabs.
They smiled and said “hey, selam,” even knowing I was Arab.
They didn’t have green eyes, yet they seemed to bear up
pretty well without them, and they don’t fault Arabs,
not all of us, at least, for Nahavand, and the bloody flare-up
at Karbala; after all, remember, Imam Husayn was Arab.
I was a little scared at first, but soon I scraped my chair up
closer and acknowledged half our poetry and science isn’t Arab.
Half? Two thirds! Three quarters! All Persian! I went clear up
to The Arabian Nights, to Ibn Sina; who says he was Arab?
We parleyed on Ferdowsi. They didn’t want to tear up
all the Arabic words in Farsi, since they don’t hate Arabs.
They didn’t insist, “Say ‘Persian!'” or “We’re Aryan, like Europe.”
They felt kin to “Third World” peoples, even Arabs.
Not royalists who think the Shah just got a bad rap,
though they don’t love the Republic, they don’t blame Arabs.
For making Persians browner, for conquest, and Umayyads,
if it helps, janem, I apologize, on behalf of Arabs,
and for implying by misnaming that the Gulf belongs to our hub
(let all the waters be yours! who needs water when you’re Arab!).
Paradise we got from Persians! It was a one-way educarab,
as backward as we were (there’s not much more to rhyme with “Arab”).
For forcible conversion of the all letter p’s we could scare up
to f’s just so they could trip off the tongues of Arabs —
por priendship and pondness’ sake, I give it all — all — up!
Mohja’s relieved to find Iranians who don’t hate Arabs.
Mohja Kahf is a poet and professor of literature at the University of Arkansas. She is the author of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, E-mails from Scheherazad, and Western Representations of the Muslim Woman from Termagant to Odalisque among other works. This poem was first published by PULSE on 22 March 2010 under a Creative Commons license.