I slink through stores
and the narrowest of country roads
my name butchered and battered
carried upon my back
they ask from whence it comes
in starched smiling tones
but what do they mean?
sometimes, I proclaim myself tsar
an imperial majesty to my name
and I imagine the questioners genuflecting
each bow graceful and easy
while Tchaikovsky booms with bombast
over vast marbled floors
they say they’re just curious
it’s so exotic, a name they’ve never heard
am I an Arab? A Greek? An Israeli?
I smile while they guess and try to look beneath their words
is there a grimace there, while they butcher it again?
or am I just imagining?
Of course, they blow up and shoot tsars
but I just want to hold onto that word for a night
tsar, a sharp edge
and speak not of questions or laws, but of edicts, orders
striding not slinking, a beatific smile rising from neat-trimmed beard
I want to speak that word one last time
before I slink down another country road
questioners battering my name
I want to waltz one last waltz
before my back breaks
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Editor’s Note: The “exotic” name in this narrative poem is an excellent metaphor for racism, highlighting the inescapable frustration and emotional burden the speaker feels.