top of page

Sholeh Wolpé: California Poets Part 4, Four Poems

Sholeh Wolpé (photo by Sophie Kandaouroff)

December 29th, 2021

California Poets: Part IV

Sholeh Wolpé

Four beads from Sholeh Wolpé’s memoir in verse, Abacus of Loos forthcoming in March 2022 from the University of Arkansas Press

Bead 1

I sit at this kitchen table in Los Angeles and take account:

There is my childhood house becoming smoke, friends

scattered like storm-blown dandelion seeds, my mother

tongue ripped blue from my throat.

See the man I used to call husband sinking into the twin

lungs of an ice beast, a love murdered by his own pallid


see vein shades of lovers who came and went, a homeland

community in jail, my cousin’s husband graying on the

run, my school principal and his wife hanging from beryl


That we choose the color

of our loss, like a blue

sash draped across

mourners’ black. That

eyes follow blind

towards the cobalt moon,

will slant us over and

down, crooked toward

mud on our graves.

Bead 2 Loss is a language we all speak well, a body moan that echoes between ribs, the downfall that becomes windfall.

Bead 3 Granddaddy takes me and my brothers out every Friday to a circus filled with tigers, elephants, horses, and shirtless men in glittering tights. There are women tinier than my child’s body, animals bigger than my room. It is roaring fun until the giant with four faces. My arms begin to shake. Shivers ripple to the tips of my fingers. Granddaddy puts a hand on my shoulder, says: It’s just a mask on his head. But I know better because anything that’s loved— a delicious granddaddy day in that circus in Tehran, sticky cotton candy melting its pink song into my mouth, my brothers, each naughty, toothy with joy— is always burning toward a future not yet come, fireworks in my brain, hot sparks welded to each memory.

Bead 4 A painted cardboard car gives birth to clown after clown. Like lovers: the soldier, the thief, the cheater, the psycho lawyer.

Author Bio:

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-American poet, translator, and playwright. She is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, several plays, and an oratorio. Her most recent book, Abacus of Loss: A Memoir in Verse (Univ. of Arkansas Press, March 2022) is hailed by National Book Award finalist Ilya Kaminsky as a book “that created its own genre—a thrill of lyric combined with the narrative spell.” Sholeh has lived in Iran, Trinidad, and the United Kingdom and is currently a writer-in-residence at the University of California, Irvine. She lives in Los Angeles and Barcelona.


bottom of page