A celebration of Persian voices and talent

Early Wednesday Hour by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad


Early Wednesday Hour

by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad
“and because their names are ours, I count / so many surnames suffixed with nejad, / because I have the same ordinary / belongings, red shoes and patterned headscarves”

Early Wednesday Hour
by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

“In a ‘terrible catastrophe,’ Iran says it mistakenly shot missiles at a Ukrainian civilian jetliner minutes after takeoff on Wednesday. The plane crashed on the outskirts of Tehran, killing [all] 176 people.”
– NPR, January 10, 2020

“The plane was shot down on Wednesday, hours after Iran had struck two air bases housing US forces in Iraq. Those missile strikes were Iran’s response to the US killing of senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.”
– BBC News, January 11, 2020


Strangers circle the lowered halo of lit candles
near the Arch, the vigil expands as they whisper
to no one they know, tasleeyat meegam
condolences—to no one who knew anyone on the plane,

perhaps, because we too, have tempted the fate
of their routes, we, like them, the diaspora
or children of, who struggle to find one another
here, unless it is time to grieve

how many of us have visited grandparents
with our mothers when our dads couldn’t take
extended leave, our aunts planning
their weddings around western calendars

we always held our breaths for two departures
and two arrivals, and when we were older, in transit
rehearsed professional progress to boast to relatives
in their homes, we accepted gold pendants and coins

as the crackle of searing esfand protected us,
because at one time, they,
like we do now, guided a brown diamond of halva
into their mouths, oiled with a prayer for the dead,

and because their names are ours, I count
so many surnames suffixed with nejad,
because I have the same ordinary
belongings, red shoes and patterned headscarves

for transient use, carryon pieces that dreadfully
brightened the burnt wreckage.
I hear others sobbing behind me,
because every Nowruz, like we do,

they must have peered into the bowl
expecting the goldfish to make it to the thirteenth,
and because, for the shi’eh bunch of us, they,
like we do, must have said ya ali!

when they were about to stand up, and louder
if they were ever startled or afraid, and louder
if they ever thought they were about to die, but
I have never boarded a vessel I didn’t trust

I only say it when I rise, and near us, a band
comes together to sing, plays carelessly their guitars
and drums, while others glance at our gathering
as they pass by, and I think of the one woman my age—

how she must have spent the wait in that early
Wednesday hour before dawn—

when I’m delayed, I take pictures of everything,
before the flight attendant asks me to turn off my phone
I stare at it, extend my arm, smile, and expect nothing
other than a perfect angle of light to hit me


Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad’s poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and Waxwing among others. She won the 2019 LUMINA La Lengua contest and the 2016 Pinch Literary Prize, and is a Best of the Net, Pushcart Prize, and Best New Poets nominee. She lives in New York, where she practices law.


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