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POET MAJID NAFICY

Los Angeles Iranian poet writes in Persian about life in America: ‘I have both worlds within me’
By Ruxandra Guidi

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Majid Naficy reads “Washing” at Skylight Books, L.A.

Majid Naficy

“My body lives in L.A., but my soul
is still rummaging through the ruins of a
lost revolution back in Iran.”


Courtesy of Majid Naficy

Majid Naficy was born in the ancient and architecturally rich city of Isfahan. A published poet since the age of 13, he comes from a family with a 3,000-book library which had to be broken up and distributed in various hiding places throughout the city because of political persecution.

His university career began with a year at UCLA, where he admired and learned from the student protests against the Vietnam War. The next year, he attended Tehran University, became a political activist, and vowed to give up the petit-bourgeois habit of poetry until the revolution had been won. Looking back, he regrets the extremism but not the impulse.

Majid Naficy’s first wife Ezzat, also an activist, was executed on January 7, 1982 in Evin prison, Tehran. Surprisingly, the poetic muse returned to his life, along with a second activist wife with whom he escaped to the United States. Political asylum in the US did not bring peace. In a Los Angeles demonstration, one of their friends immolated himself and died after nearly two weeks of what must have been an agonizing existence.

Majid Naficy’s books include Muddy Shoes, Father and Son, and Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature. He lives in Los Angeles.

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This is the revised version of my poem, “Ah, Los Angeles!”; first published in Persian in Daftar-haye Shanbeh No. 2, 1994 and then in English in Muddy Shoes (Beyond Baroque Books) 1999. The City of Venice, California engraved one of the stanzas of this poem on a wall in Venice beach at Boardwalk-Brooks in 2000. You may view the picture of this wall in an article written by Louise Steinman about my life and work published in LA Weekly, February 7, 2001.

[Editor’s note: While Louise Steinman’s article still turns in cyberspace, the photograph has since been removed.]

AH, LOS ANGELES!

Ah, Los Angeles!
I accept you as my city,
And after ten years
I am at peace with you.
Waiting without fear
I lean back against the bus post.
And I become lost
In the sounds of your midnight.

A man gets off Blue Bus 1
And crosses to this side
To take Brown Bus 4.
Perhaps he too is coming back
From his nights on campus.
On the way he has sobbed
Into a blank letter.
And from the seat behind
He has heard the voice of a woman
With a familiar accent.
On Brown Bus 4 it rains.
A woman is talking to her umbrella
And a man ceaselessly flushes a toilet.

I told Carlos yesterday,
“Your clanging cart
Wakes me up in the morning.”
He collects cans
And wants to go back to Cuba.
From the Promenade
Comes the sound of my homeless man.
He sings blues
And plays guitar.
Where in the world can I hear
The black moaning of the saxophone
Alongside the Chinese chimes?
And see this warm olive skin
Through blue eyes?
The easy-moving doves
Rest on the empty benches.
They stare at the dinosaur
Who sprays stale water on our kids.
Marziyeh sings from a Persian market
I return,homesick
And I put my feet
On your back.
Ah, Los Angeles!
I feel your blood.
You taught me to get up
Look at my beautiful legs
And along with the marathon
Run on your broad shoulders.

Once I got tired of life
I coiled up under my blanket
And remained shut-off for two nights.
Then, my neighbor turned on NPR
And I heard of a Russian poet
Who in a death camp,
Could not write his poems
But his wife learned them by heart.

Will Ă‚zad read my poetry?
On the days that I take him to school,
He sees the bus number from far off.
And calls me to get in line.
At night he stays under the shower
And lets the drops of water
Spray on his small body.
Sometimes we go to the beach.
He bikes and I skate.
He buys a Pepsi from a machine
And gives me one sip.

Yesterday we went to Romteen’s house.
His father is a Parsee [1] from India.
He wore sadra and kusti [2]
While he was painting the house.
On that little stool
He looked like a Zoroastrian
Rowing from Hormoz to Sanjan.

Ah, Los Angeles!
Let me bend down and put my ear
To your warm skin.
Perhaps in you
I will find my own Sanjan.
No, it’s not a ship touching
Against the rocky shore;
It’s the rumbling Blue Bus 8.
I know.
I will get off at Idaho
And will pass the shopping carts
Left by the homeless
I will climb the stairs
And will open the door.
I will start the answering machine
And in the dark
I will wait like a fisherman.

January 12, 1994

© Majid Naficy

>>>Also in Persian

NOTES
[1] The Parsees are the descendants of Zoroastrians who emigrated from Iran to Gujarat (in India) during the Arab conquests. In 1599, Bahman Key Qobâd, a Gujarati Parsee, wrote an epic poem in which he depicts such an migration on a ship from the Straits of Hormoz in the Persian Gulf to the port of Sanjan in India.
[2] The sadra and kusti are special tunics and belts worn by Zoroastrians after puberty.

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MORNING WORKOUT

On my balcony
There are three things
That make my day:
Wind chimes, a red rose and a stationary bike.
Every morning when I sit on the bicycle,
Past and future mingle together
The sleepy hanging chimes
Come to tinkle with every breeze
And the half-open rose buds
Stare at me eye to eye.
I pedal with ease
And circle around with the sun and the earth.
The sky up above grows pale
And like my sweating soul
It sheds off its dark blue-gray
And turns slowly into light blue.

            March 6, 2007

“And yet it does turn!”
— Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

© Majid Naficy

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Here is a sample from the extensive collection, Homeless in Venice.

III. THE HUNGRY IN VENICE BEACH

They’re standing in the line
The hungry in the morning

In front of Jesus Christ
And his truckload of bread.
“The addicts receive nothing!
The addicts receive nothing!”
The crowd yawns
And the sea gulls
Make a cross over them.
…………………………
August 7, 1986

© Majid Naficy

Click on cover to read review

Muddy Shoes, the first collection of Majid’s poetry in English, was published by Beyond Baroque in 1999.

His other books in English are Father and Son a collection of poems published by Red Hen Press in 2003, and his doctoral dissertation, Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature, published by University Press of America in 1997.

“Poet of the Revolution” by Louise Steinman, in LA Weekly

Other works by Majid Naficy
Prison Letters
I Cannot Forgive

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GIVE OBAMA ANOTHER CHANCE!

By Majid Naficy

As an Iranian-American who voted for Obama four years ago, I would like to give him another chance in this election to accomplish his goals. If Romney moves into the White House, he will stick to his guns and God, bomb Iran, deport millions of Latino immigrants, limit women’s control over their bodies, cut benefits for the poor, elderly and disabled, abolish Obama care, ignore the catastrophic impact of greenhouse emissions on the environment, choose more conservative members for the Supreme Court, destroy NPR and PBS, and so on… With his anti-government ideology, Romney will kill all the jobs that Obama’s economic stimulus package has created in the last four years. Obama models his plan for economic recovery on FDR’s successful New Deal, and Romney on Bush’s disastrous sell-off of the country to billionaires.

Obama’s election to the office was historical because it gave America a chance to come to terms with its racist past. Romney wants to “take back America,” that is, he wants to hold back America from progress toward racial equality. For Romney, Obama’s first term was only an aberration from the norm. If we give Obama another chance, America will have a golden opportunity to strengthen a colorblind democracy.

For those of you who want to vote for Romney, I have a deal. If you live in Ohio, Iowa or Florida, I can switch my vote with yours. You vote for Obama in your related states and I will vote for Romney in California!

 October 28, 2012  

© Majid Naficy

Visit poet Majid Naficy’s site at Iranian.com

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