Rebecca Ruth Gould is a writer whose poems have appeared in Nimrod, Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Hudson Review, Salt Hill, and The Atlantic Review, and who translates work from Persian, Russian, and Georgian. Publications include After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, World Classics series).
Yerevan in Winter
As we hewed words from the stone tower,
the planets completed their orbit.
Ice cracked and froze.
Our glass walls gazed on the circus below.
Cars sailed through smog.
Buses creaked their way to work.
As we sat secluded in our icy fortress,
the firmaments lit the horizons
that met in our union.
I watched you stare into the abyss.
I watched the passage of
the lives we could have lived.
I watched our fates diverge,
and our shadows merge.
I watched the images
from our quarry twist and turn,
then melt like snowflakes
in the crisp morning snow.
On Leaving Iran
The plane ascends. Women disrobe
while crossing into Turkey’s airspace.
Their hair cascades like waterfalls.
I lift my skirt to let my legs breathe.
So much sin is compressed
between my toes and my teeth!
Thus men fear losing their virginity.
I stride over the pavement.
The wind runs through my hair.
The hijab stimulates male fantasies.
I am happy to unveil—
for myself rather than a male guardian—
to return to my body,
to desire myself for myself,
in this corner of the cockpit
between two countries,
without male eyes
watching over me.
A Pagan in Islamic Egypt
Like two woman’s breasts, the Giza pyramids rise
above these scorching sands. I tighten my belt
and bow to the unknown god, remembering my
companions in the south, where the sun does not set.
Though they call me pagan, I’m just hedging
my bets, playing like Pascal,
looking out for the long term, bidding
for immortality before the wager is called.
Dear river god, please stop swelling
the Nile as if there were no tomorrow.
Stop demanding the sacred cow.
The revelation has come. Sacrifices are done.
God has won. The Crusades are over.
Allah rules Jerusalem.
Universities churn out doctorates on every subject
known since the Prophet’s hijra.
Time moves slower than the caravans.
My skin is roughened by the sand
that sheltered me as I awaited revelation,
and forgot to prostrate before the pyramids.
The pilgrim who, on his way to Mecca,
heeds not the wonders he passes
on his journey across the desert,
finds no paradise at the end of his road.