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Reza’s Restaurant, Chicago, 1997

ISSUE:  Summer 2018

           the waiters milled about filling sumac
shakers clearing away plates of onion and
           my father pointed to each person whispered
Persian about the old man with the silver
                 beard whispered Arab about the woman with
           the eye mole Persian the teenager pouring
water White the man on the phone
                                           I was eight
                   and watching and amazed
I asked how he could possibly tell when
                                                          they were all brown-
            skin-dark-hair’d like us almost everyone
                 in the restaurant looked like us
                             he smiled a proud
                 little smile a warm nest
            of lip said it’s easy said we’re just uglier

                              he returned to his lamb but I was baffled hardly
touched my gheimeh I had huge glasses and bad
                   teeth I felt plenty Persian
                                                                         when the woman
                        with light eyes and blonde-brown
hair left our check my father looked at me
                   I said Arab? he shook his head laughed
                        we drove home I grew up it took years to
                   put together what my father
meant that day my father who listened
                  exclusively to the Rolling Stones
who called the Beatles
                             a band for girls
                  my father who wore only black even
                      around the house whose arms could
                                            cut chicken wire and make stew and
                  bulged with old farm scars my father my
father my father built
                   the world the first sound I ever heard
                                             was his voice whispering the azan
                                                           in my right ear I didn’t need anything
                                                           else my father cherished
                                             that we were ugly and so being ugly
                                                                          was blessed I smiled with all my teeth


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