November 2009

Soheila Ghaussy


Soheila Ghaussy, born in Hamburg, Germany, grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan. She earned a Master's degree in English and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Hamburg, where she also served as an editor of the Hamburg Open Poetry Circle. She earned a doctorate in Comparative Literature after moving to the U.S. and is currently employed as a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art. A multilingual writer, she has published scholarly articles in both English and German journals.

To Literature    

Our storytellers (the bards, Scheherazade) are famous, and renowned
     in all of literature.
I'll try to conjure up their style. So come and gather around. It's

Yaki boud, yaki naboud... Children grow up with these fairytale phrases.
Es war einmal; once upon a time are the first lines I heard abound in

A Frenchman relates Sinbad's adventures (acquaints us with monstrous
     creatures like Roch)—
Sir Burton's bird's classic; Henning's a match. A transnational plot
     to astound us with literature?

A man who thinks that a whale is his fate; a woman who kills her own
A king who gouges out his eyes—sometimes I'm more than dumbfounded
     by literature.

Follow the shiny pebbles back home. Crumbs in the woods will never
They are eaten by birds and glass-hearted beasts—early this wisdom
     I found in literature.

80 days and one balloon to circle the earth and to learn peoples' mores.
     I laughed
as they sailed. I cried when they failed. How I hate when problems
     compound in literature!

See the pale girl with drowning eyes? She read fantasias from light's rise
     to night's fall.
She's been silent these past years but now she's loud. She oracles words
     found profound in literature.

First, the horse, and then the hounds, crossing the heath under graying
With them, the Master, tall and Byronic—bolts into my skull unbound
     by literature.

"Study, my child, and study hard. There is medicine, business and
     law to consider.
Let poetry, art and the theatre be. Even to sing is more sound than

Is this, then, your admonition, dear Sire? Dear Madame, I implore you
     to give me leave.
How should I hope to gain ground in real life, if I cannot even gain
     ground in literature?

Let me be Dunyazade, a sister who scouts out fantastical treasures.
     Baghdad's bazaars
hold emeralds as glass; a lamp holds a spirit; a square may be perfectly
     round in literature.

I will not die! I will spin like a Dervish. I will spin you tales like
     the Sultan's wife who shook
off the scimitar by the skin of her teeth and skills of the tongue she
     unwound for literature.

She humbly offers these tales to you in pairs of two, her face to the
     ground. If you have frowned,
forgive her! Soheila can't sing. This is her voice's sound in literature.




Her eldest,     tucked away,
fast asleep these last few hours—
on her belly, the younger boy
breathes in the innocence of his home,
feels its rhythm      and skin folds heave.

Twelve years since I left. Twelve years
between her birth and mine. We sit
barefoot, facing age on her old sofa
whose cushions grouse under our mutual pounds.

"Once I held you just like this," I say,
"your body propped on mine, our hearts echoing."
"I always thought of you as fully grown," she says

and easy     from her amniotic eyes, I slide
     head first, limbs curled:      her perfect third.



Soheila Ghaussy: Poetry
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