Sentinel Literary Quarterly

Vol.2 No.2, January 2009. ISSN 1753-6499 (Online).

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Bernard Gieske
Genna Gardini
Helena Carolinska
Michael Lee Rattigan
Nnorom Azuonye
Ramesh Dohan
Sholeh Wolpé
Terri Ochiagha
Tolu Ogunlesi
Uche Nduka
Uchechukwu Umezurike
William Stephenson





















Sholeh Wolpé




I have sinned a rapturous sin

in a warm enflamed embrace,

sinned in a pair of vindictive arms,

arms violent and ablaze.


In that quiet vacant dark

I looked into his mystic eyes,

found such longing that my heart

fluttered impatient in my breast.


In that quiet vacant dark

I sat beside him punch-drunk,

his lips released desire on mine,

grief unclenched my crazy heart.


I poured in his ears lyrics of love:

O my life, my lover it’s you I want.

Life-giving arms, it’s you I crave.

Crazed lover, for you I thirst.


Lust enflamed his eyes,

red wine trembled in the cup,

my body, naked and drunk,

quivered softly on his breast.


I have sinned a rapturous sin

beside a body quivering and spent.

I do not know what I did O God,

in that quiet vacant dark.


From: Sin- Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad  by Sholeh Wolpé (University of Arkansas Press, 2007)





All my being is a dark verse

that repeats you to the dawn

of unfading flowering and growth.

I conjured you in my poem with a sigh

and grafted you to water, fire, and trees.


Perhaps life is a long avenue

a woman with a basket crosses every day;

perhaps life is a rope

with which a man hangs himself from a tree,

or is a child returning home from school.


Maybe life is the act of lighting a cigarette

in the listless pause between lovemaking,

or the vacant glance of a passerby who tips

his hat and says, Good morning!

                                                with a meaningless smile.


Perhaps life is a choked moment where my gaze

annihilates itself inside in the pupils of your eyes—

                        I will mingle that sensation with my grasp

                        of the moon and comprehension of darkness.


In a room the size of loneliness,

my heart’s the size of love.

It contemplates its simple pretexts for happiness: 

the beauty of the flowers’ wilting in a vase,

the sapling you planted in our garden,

and the canaries’ song—  the size of a window.


Alas, this is my lot.

This is my lot.

My lot is a sky that can be shut out

by the mere hanging of a curtain.

My lot is descending a lonely staircase

to something rotting and falling apart in its exile.

My lot is a gloomy stroll in a grove of memories,

and dying from longing for a voice

that says: I love your hands.


I plant my hands in the garden soil—

I will sprout,

                   I know, I know, I know.

And in the hollow of my ink-stained palms  

swallows will make their nest.


I will adorn my ears with twin-cherry sprigs,

wear dahlia petals on my nails.

There is an alley where boys who once loved me still stand

with the same tousled hair, thin necks, and scrawny legs,

contemplating the innocent smiles of a young girl

swept away one night by the wind.


There is an alley my heart has stolen

from my childhood turf.


A body travelling along the line of time

impregnates time’s barren cord,

and returns from the mirror’s feast

intimate with its own image.

This is how one dies, and another remains.


No seeker will ever find pearls from a stream

                                      that pours into a ditch.


I know a sad little fairy who lives in the sea

and plays the wooden flute of her heart tenderly,


A sad small fairy who dies at night with a kiss

and is reborn with a kiss at dawn.


From: Sin- Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad  by Sholeh Wolpé (University of Arkansas Press, 2007)


The Deep Dive


Stevie’s raisin-coloured braids,

a shade lighter than his skin, 

bob up–down as the waves punch the boat.


He signals  Go down.

I don’t.


I stay close to the boat,

hold tight the taut rope.

                                       Can’t breathe.

Not the air in the tank.

Not the air in the air.

My lungs inflate, deflate,

but that’s  beside the point.

                                       I can’t freakin’ breathe,

and I yell this to the waves,

to the boat,

to Stevie

who magically surfaces beside  me,

an aurous brown god in goggles,

 regulator hose dangling  by his mouth.

He holds my head between his palms, says,

                                      “But you ARE breathing. You ARE.”


I look at him and even in this panic, this feeling

of imminent death, I note how beautiful he is,

how I could perhaps outlive this storm

in this man’s brawny arms,  let myself go

and the hell with the world,

with who I am, or am supposed to be,

with my anxious lover waiting at the shore.


“Relax, baby,” says Stevie, “I’ll stay with you.”

He pulls me into his arms and I breathe deep

from the tank strapped to my back. Stealthily

he releases air from my jacket, adds

a cube of weight to my belt ,

and down we go,  down

into the broth of another world.


The sea bottom is a sandy desert flush against massive rocks,

and there are cacti, tiny Joshua trees, and brown grass dancing

to the water current’s silent tango…


Time means nothing here.


Palestine, Israel, and Tehran mean nothing here,

my daughter contemplating suicide at  twelve means nothing here,

sons in military fatigue breathing Iraqi air means nothing here,

even women giving life and grenades taking them away,

mean nothing here.


Here, the fish are birds,

electric blue fins, wings,

and beneath this airless sky, Stevie and I.


From: Rooftops of Tehran by Sholeh Wolpé  (Red Hen Press, 2008)



Submit your poems for Sentinel Literary Quarterly Vol.2 No.3 April 2009 by the 31st of March to or

Submit up to 6 poems on any subject up to 60 lines long or 1 long poem up to 200 lines long.

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Sholeh Wolpé is the author of Rooftops of Tehran, Sin — Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, The Scar Saloon, Shame (a play in three acts) and a poetry/music CD (Refuge Studios). She is the associate editor of The Norton Anthology of Modern Literature from the Muslim World (Norton, 2010) and the guest editor of Atlanta Review (2010 Iran issue). Her poems, translations, essays and reviews have appeared in scores of literary journals, periodicals and anthologies worldwide, and have been translated into several languages. Sholeh was born in Iran and presently lives in Los Angeles.


Sentinel Literary Quarterly

 Published by Sentinel Poetry Movement

Editor: Nnorom Azuonye

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