“Backward Glancing on a Tehran Street” and other poems by Lynda Tavakoli

Game On

In Syria the shooters
choose themes for target practice,
a living video game of
entertainment for the week.

On Saturday it’s chins –
anything below the nose, above the neck,
and rifle sights explore
a quivered lip
as points deduct for errors –
cheeks and ears are left
for Sunday’s sport.

On Monday, it’s the old,
their leech-peeled progress
over desert skin the easier to track,
points deducted for impairment
but added for an outright kill.

On Tuesday, pregnant women.
Two for the price of one (but scarce)
with double points for primary executions,
only if you’re in the zone.

On Wednesday, barrel metal
rests on gaping sills,
trigger fingers slack
for mobiles phoning home
while someone calculates the points
but lets the stretcher bearers
live upon a whim.

Thursday’s dawn will drone
unblinking and unlit,
sheltering the snipers’
bull’s -eyed sleep from heavenly foe .
Anonymous the joystick thumb
that strokes its target from
behind a foreign screen,
one final arbitrary theme,
the sum of all its parts,
no worse, no better
than what’s gone before.

Friday now and Holy Day.
Notch up the scores
before the credits start to roll
and silence sucks its permadeath of souls
into the black hole of a VDU.


Backward Glancing on a Tehran Street, published Live Encounters/Four by Four


Sound travels stealthily here,
nudged by desert winds
or wing-tucked in flight
over a turquoise sea.

I let it in, breathing the salt taste
through an open doorway
and search for distant minarets
seeking the ears of the faithful.

Strange too how a church bell
peals in lingered space,
filling gaps between the
foreignness of each refrain.

Then all at once in note-merged
harmony, a single song remains,
spilling its oneness to the
journey’s end, its call complete.

War and Want

The dust is first – always,
before the sun crisps the skin
or sand moulds molten heat
between our toes
there is always and ever
the dust to welcome us.

No orifice hides from its gritting
no spit or piss protected from
the chaff of misted rock
that scrapes its way inside –
the powdered bones of the dead
ghosting their revenge.

Yet in the sleeping hours
I still dream of you
beautiful even in the way
that angels are
who smile their enigmatic smiles
among the bloodied spoils of war.

For I feel the rise and fall of us
lusting my nights like the killings
that also lust my days
and will you forgive
my need for you
when you learn
of my hunger for both?

But you are not to know
these soldier’s thoughts
that scar my days and nights –
for the thing that was first is last, always,
disintegrating again to the fineness of dust
welcoming us all.


War and Want, published The Honest Ulsterman/Live Encounters

For Friends

Light comes early in the Middle East –
arms stretched out like a hug,
sunbeams swallowing the waned
darkness of the night before.

I am alone here in this beauty,
standing by a window thinking of you,
feeling the distance of your friendship
in the sun’s embrace.

But soon this warmth that touches me
will find you too and all will be well,
for the light sustains, knowing
it can always find its way back home.

Backward Glancing on a Tehran Street

Turquoise, my colour-coat of choice
and yours the emerald green
of half your roots;
the other half a chadored
shadow stretched to fit
a flat screen
back at home.

Here on this Tehran Street –
Khomeini Street,
the black crows softly
trip the light fandango
through a sea of cars
shoaling the three-lane surf
forever six lanes deep.

On pavements walk
the kohl-eyed beauty
of the young,
loose slung roosari draped
high on bee hives, nose jobs
sticking-plastered for perfection
(at a western price).

We walk rebellious in
our coloured coats,
the mother, daughter oddity
of us no longer meriting
that whispered backward glance,
for underneath our feet,
awakening slowly from its sleep
the Persian tiger stirs.

Unmade Bed

Through the fraying ends of sleep
I feel your absence
seeping through the coldness
of the sheets.
The smell of you
still shelters in their folds
while dented on the pillow
your presence lingers like a bruise
that aches of memory
surrendering itself to time.

Backward Glancing on a Tehran Street, published Live Encounters/Four by Four

Backward Glancing on a Tehran Street and other poems are © Lynda Tavakoli

لیندا توکلی

چشم یک کودک،
ابرها و آرزوها
و رویای آنچه که
فردا آبستن آن خواهد بود

ولی من، همه ی اینها را گم کرده ام
لحظه های امیدواری ام
در رهگذر روزها و سال ها
محو تند بادهای زندگی شده اند

به گذشته می نگرم
چیزی نمی بینم مگر
آسمانی بی ابر، اندوهی خالی
و ته ماندۀ رویاهای تعبیر ناشده

بستر دست ناخورده
لیندا توکلی

نبودنت را
از پایان آشفته خواب در می یابم
نبودنت از سرمای رواندازها می تراود
هنوز هم بوی تو
در چین خوردگیها ی روانداز 
جاییکه روی بالش تا خورده
پناه گرفته است
حضورت همانند کبودی زخمی جای خوش کرده

Attached file of poems by Lynda Takakoli from Where are you from ? Lynda Tavakoli (1) a Persian and English anthology 
translated and edited by Soodabeh Saeidnia and Aimal Zaman

Lynda Tavakoli facilitates an adult creative writing class in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. Her poetry and prose have been broadcast on both BBC Radio Ulster and RTE Sunday Miscellany. Literary successes include poetry and short story prizes at Listowel, the Mencap short story competition and the Mail on Sunday novel competition. Lynda’s poems have been included in a variety of publications including Templar Poets’ Anthology Skein, Abridged, The Incubator Journal, Panning for Poems, Live Encounters, Circle and Square, North West Words, Four X Four (Poetry NI), The Honest Ulsterman, A New Ulster and Corncrake magazine. She has been selected as The Irish Times Hennessy poet of the month for her poems about dementia, a recurring theme in much of her poetry. Most recently her poems have been translated into Farsi (PDF by Lynda Tavakoli (1)) while others have seen publication in Bahrain.
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