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Mahnaz Badihian

Drawing by Ario Mashayekhi

Dr. Mahnaz Badihian is an American/Iranian poet. She grew up in Iran and has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years. She has an English poetry book,
From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi, that can be purchased at, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers.

Her poetry offers a blend of Middle Eastern and American sensibilities, which makes her poetry both germane and intriguing to our world today. From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi is  the "emotional journey ... of an Iranian poet influenced by her Sufi poetic ancestors but grounded in her contemporary appreciation of the world she lives in." She is "A poet to bring poetry back into the heart of America."

Dr. Badihian has been a frequent contributor to Simorgh (a literary magazine) for the past seven years and has published two volumes of poetry in Persian and a translation of Pablo Neruda's Book of Questions, which has been a best-seller in Iran. She currently resides with her husband in San Rafael, California where she runs a Persian/English language literary website, As the first poet laureate of Iowa, Marvin Bell has said, "Mahnaz, you have the heart and soul of a poet."

Zayandeh Rud

Where am I from?
That my dress smells
Like the tarragon from my
Father's garden,
And my cheeks are as red
As the flower of a
Pomegranate tree.

Where am I from?
That my hands are the
Stem of a delicate tomato plant,
And the taste in my mouth
Is the taste of pussywillows
In my mother's tea.

Where am I from?
That all my dreams
Are blue, the same
Color as the Caspian Sea.

Where am I from?
That in spring, the
Apple tree buds
In me.

You know, you know
I am from that proud
Zayandeh Rud,
From the tall mountain,
From the land that
Reaches to Zoroaster:
The first poet on earth.

Originally published by


This is my will to you
    When I die, Come
Come and autopsy my corpse
    With your hands
First shave my long hair
The hair that my father loved
    And my lover cursed

Open my scalp
     Touch the cells in my brain
     It is swelling
Take the moth out
     Which was eating my brain
Touch my cheeks burned from fever
     Kindness marks the act of eternity.

     You reached my lips
Don't worry.
      There is nothing to mention
You see?
Those two proud birds
Are my breasts
Which have swollen.
       Feel them
                 erotic, exotic.
They are still trying
              To celebrate life.

          Open my heart
And stick your fingers
               In its dreamful atria
Empty my ventricles
     Of coagulated blood
They are soddening
            My dried dreams

Be slow!
          Slowly open my skin
Be gentle!
Look, no longer
    Your fingers can experience
                The excitement of the
Fifth symphony
           on my skin

Cut my dried womb
            piece by piece,
                  little by little
Maybe the cells of
my ancestors Bidel or
Oppressed, grand, grand mothers,
          Khorshid and Khavar
         Are visible there.

You reached my feet
  Don't wait
Strength turned them to stone
            Make a  bridge of them
            As a symbol of strength.

Autopsy me
Piece by piece
And see how inside
                            Is outside
            To the thickness of Life,
And the regret of
                    sorrow and silence.

Originally published by

A poem by Nadia Anjoman

translated by Mahnaz Badihian

No desire to open my mouth
What should I sing of...?
I, who am hated by life.
No difference to sing or not to sing.
Why should I talk of sweetness,
When I feel bitterness?
Oh, the oppressor's feast
Knocked my mouth.
I have no companion in life
Who can I be sweet for?
No difference to speak, to laugh,
To die, to be.
Me and my strained solitude.
With sorrow and sadness.
I was borne for nothingness.
My mouth should be sealed.
Oh my heart, you know it is spring
And time to celebrate.
What should I do with a trapped wing,
Which does not let me fly?
I have been silent too long,
But I never forget the melody,
Since every moment I whisper
The songs from my heart,
Reminding myself of
The day I will break this cage,
Fly from this solitude
And sing like a melancholic.
I am not a weak poplar tree
To be shaken by any wind.
I am an Afghan woman,
It only makes sense to moan

Originally published by

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