At dVerse (Poets Pub), Fred Rutherford kindly prompts us to write about some “First Time” in our lives. My poem below is about the first time (of several to come) when I wondered if I would die?
Stopped in Iran
Whose country’s this, I wish I knew
The shah’s, the mullahs, I’ve no clue.
But forced am I to stop my car
To watch perhaps another coup.
My learning had not gone so far,
To know this, the Shah’s empire,
Ajax had put the chap in place.
Mosaddeq got an au revoir.
Against a wall in frightened disgrace,
guns forced us to keep a straight face.
tonight would we here lonely die?
Some quietly prayed, just in case.
No motion for hours we all complied,
Though a few did break down and cry.
Released to live today, “goodbye”,
We all reach up and praised the sky.
— by Sabio Lantz, 9/16/2012
- Setting: The year was 1974. My car was pulled over on a lonely road in Iran. Myself and my fellow travelers were told to get out. We were put against a brick wall with machine guns pointed at us for hours. No explanations and huge language barriers. Just fear.
- Poem Form: In ‘honor’ of the place of this memory [Iran], this poem is my first attempt at the Persian poetic form called the “ruba’i” (with other classic Persian styles being the ghazal and the mathnawi). The “ruba’i” [Arabic for “quatrain”] was first made famous by Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883) who translated poems by the amazing Persian author Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) — “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” [“rubaiyat” being Arabic plural for “ruba’i”]. Due to FitzGerald, the ruba’i became popular and was picked up by Robert Frost (1874-1963). My poem starts mimicing Robert Frost’s famous ruba’i called “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (1922). Here is the form’s constraints:
- Stanzas: 4 quatrains ( 4 “ruba’i”)
- Syllables: 8 per line
- Rhyme: aaba, bbcb, ccdc, dddd
- History: The CIA project “Ajax” help overthrow the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh to put in their dictator – the Shah of Iran (“Persia”). The Shah was harsh on opponents. Our car probably got stopped looking for those who resisted his US -supported autocracy.