Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Poem of the Week: Zara Houshmand

Humor Difficult to Translate

The label says Afghan Comedian
and nothing more, no artist, no provenance,
just a monitor’s unlidded eye embedded
in the blond paneled desert of a gallery
wall among prints of a now old war.
The man sits tailor fashion—seven at one blow!—
his Pashto patter flows
in an indecipherable rush,
but for a moment he’s clearly a woman,
now perhaps a child.
Impersonation interrupted, audience request:
he unstraps his prosthetic shin
and hoists the hollow tube to his shoulder.
Ak ak ak ak ak ak ak! he sweeps the sky,
setting up his punch line, in English: Antiaircraft!
Then the coup de grâce: Bazooka! he announces,
takes aim at the camera, and Boom! almost
falling over from its kick before he bobs
back, half smiling, to applause.

Edward Uhl dies at 92
along with Colonel Leslie A. Skinner
he invented the bazooka
named after an improvised tubular musical instrument
that comedian Bob Burns had popularized
—the bubble gum came later—
a close friend and hunting partner
of Werner Von Braun
after the war Mr. Uhl climbed rapidly
through the aerospace industry
transformed Fairchild from an airplane
producer into a powerhouse
that also made missiles.
Uhl passed away peacefully, survived
by Mary his wife of forty-four years
sons Kim and Scott, daughter Cynthia
two stepsons, a sister, four
grandchildren, and five
—approaching a village now—

..........................Asia Society exhibition, Through Afghan Eyes, 2002
..........................New York Times obituary, May 9, 2010

-Zara Houshmand

Used by permission.

Zara Houshmand is an Iranian-American writer living in Austin, Texas. Her work includes poetry, theatre, virtual reality, literary translation from the Persian, and editing books on the Mind and Life dialogues between the Dalai Lama and scientists. Her most recent book is A Mirror Garden, a memoir co-authored with Monir Farmanfarmaian.

Houshmand was part of the group reading We are All Iran: a Group Reading by Iranian-American Poets at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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