Raheem's Father

A close look at an Iranian man's life and trials.

By Steven Horowitz - Peace Corps Volunteer, Iran (1968-1971)

Raheem’s father was born unrecorded
living measured by the stories

drawn out
on the edge of meals
as he picked the semi-dried grapes
one by one
and set them
between the bones of his long face.
“ We traveled once by donkey
from Azarbaidjan to Mashad
and slept in caravanserais
to avoid jackals and wolves.”
Raheem’s father had a small shop,
a shape of uneven shelves,
an unlit room
with bottles of herbs
on a dirt floor.
He kept the flat-topped dark blue
Turkish hat on his head
and murmured a prayer
with a cracking
between his lips and tongue.

“We traveled once on horseback
from Azarbaidjan to Kerbala.
It was a journey of many months.”
Raheem’s father posed
in the shadow of his garden window
feet tucked under
palms on knees
smiling a gray half-shaven face.
He found me an old water pipe
and two long village pipes
carved from cherry trees.
I was born recorded
living measured by machines
that split
on the edge of stories.
“ Raheem’s father traveled
east and south
on the backs of animals
living simply
along a path he embraced.”

This poem was selected as a finalist in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. It was selected from more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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