Sholeh Wolpé is the author of Sin—Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad (University of Arkansas Press), The Scar Saloon (Red Hen Press), Rooftops of Tehran (Red Hen Press), and Shame (a play in three acts). She is the associate editor of The Norton Anthology of Modern Literature from the Muslim World (Norton, 2010) and the editor of the Atlanta Review – Iran Issue (2010.)  Her poems, translations, essays and reviews have appeared in scores of publications worldwide. Sholeh was born in Iran and lives in Los Angeles. More information:

If I Make It to 80
I’ll look good.
I mean real good.
Sexy good

I’ll wear white short skirts
And play tennis.
Wear string bikinis and
Go to the beach.

My son will be 60
My daughter 63
My husband,
The way he eats,

(Which means I can sleep
With the tennis pro-- if I want.)

At 80 I’ll have no shame.
I’ll be a slave to fashion
Flaunt my bellybutton
Wear red pushup bras with lacy straps.

I’ll hit on young men in bars
Listen to rock and roll till dawn
Smoke unfiltered cigarettes
Take belly-dancing lessons downtown.

At 80, if Death dares show his face,
I’ll put on a sexy purple gown
Sprawl like Cleopatra on the couch
Invite him to take off his cape
Have a glass of Cabernet
Sit closer, not be shy.

Sholeh Wolpé (from The Scar Saloon)


Holy Water
At a party for a man who is now
a woman living with a lesbian lover,
the butterball woman sitting next to me on the couch
tells me she had her dog blessed

at a Catholic church in Hollywood.
She says there was an ad in the paper.
People brought their birds, cats, lizards,
even fish, to be blessed by holy water.

I ask her if she is Catholic.
Oh no, I’m Jewish, she says.
But I wanted my dog blessed.

This reminds me of Mashad-reezeh, how its Kad-khoda,
the village chief, always rose at the crack of dawn
to pray, performing ablutions with cloudy pond water,
thick with moss, fish feces, and drowned stars.

Sholeh Wolpé From Rooftops 
of Tehran)


The Village Well

You were children, curious. Something splashed
in the belly of the well and she took your hand, descended
into the mouth opened wide,
step by concrete step down its dark spiral throat.

The creature that unhinged the damp stillness
of that well was not a man, not an animal–
just the silhouette of something vast….
You thought it was God, she thought it was djinn,
and then you with fear did not think at all, running back up
breathless, the chill of the well at your heels.

That night you didn’t wait for his leg to accidently
rub against yours, or his hand accidentally brush
your thigh as it always did, away from eyes that never
blinked. Instead, you reached for his knee, the flesh and bone
of this gray man who pretended to be daddy’s friend. Beneath
the table laden with almond rice your mother had lovingly cooked,
the saffron-stewed lamb, the chicken smothered in herbs…
you squeezed,
squeezed so hard his eyes turned your direction and melted
into a watery scream like the one still rising in the throat of that well.

Sholeh Wolpé (From Rooftops of Tehran)

Poet Sholeh Wolpe

© 2009  Sholeh Wolpè

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