Monday, February 12, 2018

#257: Two Poems by Jacqueline Jules

~This poem previously appeared in The Cape Rock (2014).

How Is Mom Holding Up?

When they heard the news in December,
Mom did not cancel their summer cruise.
The doctor said three rounds this time, if all goes well.
Besides, they bought insurance.

She hasn’t canceled yoga, either. Tuesdays 9 a.m.
are blocked off from January to June
to breathe deeply in class,
not at the hospital in chemo spouse position.

With no surgery scheduled, no bedside duty,
Mom plans to keep tutoring Wednesdays, too.

She’s already flipping through catalogs,
choosing seeds for the spring garden
unplanted last year in the storm
of a darker diagnosis.

And when I asked why she was gazing
through a frosted bay window
with dreamy gray eyes,
she said she was picturing
Sunday walks at the lake
hand in hand. Each day
growing longer and longer
until twelve hours of sun
and dinner for two on the patio
consumed the fear
of one plate on the kitchen table
and a six o’clock sunset outside.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

#256: "Far-Away Love" by Nahid Rachlin

~This story was previously published in Virginia Quarterly Review (1980).
~Selected by Kenneth Fleming, Assistant Editor, Fiction

                                    I am standing at this street corner,
                                    Where we used to meet
                                    But is it the same street?
                                    -- a Persian song

            Soosan sat in the Gelato Lab, eating her plum sorbet while her son, having finished his, stood by the fish tank in a corner of the cafe watching the fish tumbling in the water. They both needed rest. For hours, they had been going from shop to shop in the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar in the center of Tehran, with her doing some the last minute shopping for the party she was giving for Darien’s tenth birthday.
            The cafĂ© with the bright display of fruit and Cola bottles on a counter, green lights from tiny bulbs in the ceiling beaming, and its air fragrant with floral scents used in sorbets and gelatos was serene. But Soosan was far from relaxed. The closer it got to Darien’s birthday, the more she missed Bill, the American father of her child. How could she forget Bill, the stormy love between them that had come to an abrupt end ten years ago when he had to leave Iran, practically escaping, going back to America? Darien, looking so much like him, a son he had no idea existed, was a constant reminder of him. When the Revolution raged through Iran, with the Shah overthrown and a new Islamic regime about to take over, there was a wave of anti-American feeling that led to 52 Americans being taken hostage. Then the State Department had ordered all Americans residing in Iran to evacuate-- special planes had been sent for them. So she didn’t have a chance to even say good-bye to Bill. The Revolution and then the war with Iraq, which ended just a year ago, brought communication between Iran and other countries to zero. Phone lines were mostly disabled; post office didn’t deliver to other countries or received mail from them. The soap factory where she and Bill had both been working had closed soon after the American employees were forced to leave.
            She had kept hoping the relationship between Iran and America would resume and Bill would return. But everything got only worse. The hostages were held much longer than expected, over a year; the American embassy never opened, and a war, with Iraq attacking Iran kept going, making communication between Iran and other countries nearly impossible.
            She tried and tried to find a way to go to America and search for Bill but it became clear it was impossible for an Iranian to get a visa to go there.  Even if she could, how would she track him down in the vast country? She had no idea even what city he was living in.
            Her thoughts went to when she just met Bill. A young American man stopped by her at a bookstore where she was buying a novel in English. He began to talk switching back and forth from English to Farsi. They realized they both worked at the office of Parsa Soap Factory; she was a receptionist there, and he was an engineer consultant.     
             “I’m taking an English course in an evening class,” she had said to him.  “I see all the American movies shown in cinemas. I want to understand them in the original language.”
            “Maybe we can go to one of the movies together,” he said.
            She shook her head. He seemed to understand that she couldn’t accept the invitation, knew that it was forbidden in this culture for men and women to interact freely before they were married. They would have to see each other secretly.
            “Let’s go to dinner then, I know a good place outside of town.”
            She hesitated but then she agreed to that.