The Mansion of My Childhood

By MO H. SAIDI

For Tristan

I

My father was tall, plump, old and cruel.
            When he was late returning home, we’d
                        joke that he’d been taken to the morgue.

A story teller, he often would say, God
            Loves good tales with happy endings:
                        The Holy Book’s stories, Layla and Majnun.

II

My grandfather was a bearded man.
            He looked like the Sistine God
                        His face gleamed with candor.

An ayatollah, he believed Allah is afflicted
            With insomnia no angel can cure—He’s
                        a riddle, a challenge for mankind, God’s

grace can be purchased in every bazaar.
            He’d say, “Don’t pray for me, do it for Him.
                        When He’s jaded, He may stage a deluge.”

III

My father would visit my grandfather
            once a month—the city was an hour’s drive
                        away. Grandfather had strong arms

But his legs were paralyzed.
            He had fully memorized the Book of Kings
                        and the Koran. For a good tip, I’d listen

to him for hours and the follow the lines.
            Only rarely did he err. He let me correct
                        the slips because I was his favorite grandson.

IV

My childhood house was a mansion
            I was the shortest kid on the block. They
                        all knew my name; I only the teacher’s.

When grandfather would visit us, he’d
            bring us softballs, candies, silver coins.
                        Even before his stroke, he was always weak

in his legs, would limp along and tire quickly.
            On his last visit, he struggled and wrote
Icannotcontrolmyhand, and he dropped the pen.

V

I would look at my father in awe.
            He was tall, strong and voracious
                        too old to live to see my diploma.

Loud and uncouth, he was a lamb
            under Mother’s shadow. To leave more
                        time for prayer, they both had forbidden chess,

reading or writing poetry in our house.
            I always dreamed to be a writer. They
                        preached that I should become a mullah.

We made peace: they burned the chess board
            and the pieces; I buried the Holy Book. As I
                        prepared to leave town, a call shook the house.

VI

I heard the unbearable news—my hero
was dead—we rushed to his hometown.
                        The city was confused. A black holiday.

The waves of men in black marched
            in the streets. His house teemed with mourners
                        waiting for the feast. The servants served

Bread, rice, and cheese. High on the roof
            the muezzin was hard at work with booming
                        calls. In the chaos of the funeral procession,

I muttered his favorite line as I looked
            at his open casket. Life is a mansion
                        of ice, how could I avoid the sun?

Your daily dose of poetry. God bless you all my darling avidReaders 🙂

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