“A Background Sketch” By Rosha Rizi

Written by plumtree

Topics: 2021-22 School Year

I wonder what it is like to be American

Not the way I am

Not with the history of Perisa

Flowing through my blood

But with a blank canvas

Where you paint your own picture


I wonder what it is like without a background on your painting

Without the map of Iran sketched out for you

Where your parents filled in the experience of Shiraz And Esvehan

And where I must sketch out the United States next to it.


I wonder why my friend thinks being American is boring

Why they don’t enjoy the melting pot of culture

Which brought Hamid Rizi and Maryam Fadaei together

Which brought me and my brother to life


I wonder what it was like for my parents

When they flew on the plane

From their own home

To a house of freedom

What rush of fright

And tidal wave of joy

Washed over them when they landed


I wonder what it is like for others

When they hear the word “Iran”

Slip out of my mouth


I wonder why I always see

A look of confusion

Or surprise

When I answer the question

“Where are you from?”


I wonder what people do

When they don’t have

A second language

Having another open door

In which you can communicate

With others


I wonder what people think of

When they eat the rich food

Of my father’s Moby Dick

What kind of history they think of

When they taste the ostentatiously orange saffron

Which stain our replete plates of rice with flavor

Or the Sangak which is cooked on smoldering stones


I wonder what people hear

When they see the beauteous music

My mother plays on the

Ancient Santur

Or what they think

When they see her hit the Mezrab

Onto its gold and silver strings


I wonder what people do

When they learn about new culture

New experience

New life


I wonder why

In second grade

No one knew of my background

Not my class

Nor the first-grade class

Which we presented poems of our culture to


I wonder why

A Persian first grader

Was terrified

To say,

“Are you from Iran?”


I wonder why I can’t say my friend’s name like others do

Why I say it with an accent

Unlike everyone else


I wonder why I am still similar to so many others

Yet so different at the same time


By simply having a background

By having parts of my daily life

Sketched out


I wonder what my combined experience

In my unified life

Of the United States

And the ancient Iran

Can teach others


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