Saturday, April 16, 2011

Persis Karim's "Other Mothers"

Other Mothers

Their sons who speak of a cause
As if it were their two feet
beneath them. That they could hold an idea
and a weapon at the same time.

The way they could fool themselves
Into thinking they were pure
And righteous, that the great stories
of God or country could keep them safe.

When my son handed me an Israeli army shirt,
asking me to sew a button on its collar, I knew
my refusal would be the beginning
of a long goodbye, of steeling myself

for an angry boy with an inkling
of manhood, undeterred
by what I said or didn't say.
His determination grew
in his shoulders,
in sharp silences.

I thought of those other mothers--
their sons, who, whether with a gun or a car,
could find the white light of belief
that would sow the seeds
of an incalculable grief.

-Persis Karim
Used by permission.

Persis M. Karim is an associate professor in the Department of English & Comparative Literature at San Jose State University where she teaches world literature, comparative literature and creative writing. She is the editor and contributing poet of Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006) and co-editor of A World Between: Poems, Essays and Short Stories by Iranian Americans (1999).

On March 31, 2010, Persis's stepson Kyle Strang (16) and their neighbor Prentice Gray, Jr. (19) were killed in a car accident. To learn about Kyle and the trip his father, Craig Strang, recently took to Israel and Palestine with thirteen of Kyle's Berkeley High School classmates to honor Kyle's memory, go to She can be reached at

Karim was on the panel The War is Not Over: Writing About Iraq and the Case of the Mutanabbi Street Coalition and was part of the We Are All Iran group reading by Iranian-American poets at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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