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Maryam Ivette Parhizkar
Maryam Ivette Parhizkar

Study Guide Toward Naturalization of the Mouth

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 16, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Many of the words in this poem come from a notebook of English phrases and vocabulary that my father kept intermittently from around the time he immigrated to the United States in 1977 to the time he received his citizenship in 2000. The questions he transcribed over time struck me. I wanted to try to answer them associatively in this poem while pushing back at my tendency to correct them. This assemblage from my father’s transcriptions is intertwined with language that shaped our lives in this country: English, Farsi, Spanish, Arabic, and the legal language of ‘exception’ (from the 1986 Amnesty Act). At the same time I was writing this, I was having dreams about teeth. Power, security, speech, vitality, the members of a family: these are the many things that teeth can represent in dreams—and yes, in waking life. I am thankful to my father for sharing this piece of himself with me.”
—Maryam Ivette Parhizkar

Study Guide Toward Naturalization of the Mouth

from an inherited notebook

(I) How many teeth does the 
snail have?
                   tens of thousands 
upon the tongue. thousands 
those who fell loose from 
within my home. a flesh  so 
soft  so full of bite. I molar– 
EXCEPTION––you 
the fangs.


   (II) How many words does 
English have?
              tens of thous- 
ands & tens of thousands 
obsolete.–––EXCEPTION 
FOR you I earned 	      –– 
a credential in what was 
said to break in the mo 
uth.

  (III) Who are the candidents 
ates for president of the USA?
contra. crisis. turning point: 
. نقطھ عطف on the contrary. ca 
da paso que das. civil. The ali 
en must establish–––.good 
ness. In good faith. in case 
you wonder. admissible. Marr 
red. marriage. EXCEPTION
––. I feel like––to:–– I’m in 
the mud to doing s. thing. an 
anniversary. flow. fire 
       fourth of july.


    (IV) What happened at the 
	  how do you
mean.–– all those days for 
mastery & yet money is–– 
EXCEPTION––. invisible & 
power. to make a living. for 
your teeth I ghost wrote a 
letter so that they would un 
derstand. every one fallen 
meant new ones that I would 
someday give to you. flow 
ship. restoration. what should 
i do if i want to continue.–– 
the future. what we take as 
return. precious common 
porcelain.


   (V) What color of the earth
	      from out of it 
home is the faint brown of 
a martyr’s soil. bend your 
head before it. salat.––sal 
t. it is possible that––it is– 
is both? alien. citizen snail. 
IN GENERAL––. if it is holy 
then one must bend before 
its purity. like our flesh so 
soft. so full. so much for 
repair.

Copyright © 2018 by Maryam Ivette Parhizkar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Maryam Ivette Parhizkar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

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collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

poem

Windy Nights

Whenever the moon and stars are set,   
  Whenever the wind is high,   
All night long in the dark and wet,   
  A man goes riding by.   
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?   
   
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,   
  And ships are tossed at sea,   
By, on the highway, low and loud,   
  By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then   
By he comes back at the gallop again.  
Robert Louis Stevenson
1913
poem

Pilgrimage

Vicksburg, Mississippi


Here, the Mississippi carved
            its mud-dark path, a graveyard

for skeletons of sunken riverboats.
            Here, the river changed its course,

turning away from the city
            as one turns, forgetting, from the past—

the abandoned bluffs, land sloping up
            above the river's bend—where now

the Yazoo fills the Mississippi's empty bed.
            Here, the dead stand up in stone, white

marble, on Confederate Avenue. I stand
            on ground once hollowed by a web of caves;

they must have seemed like catacombs,
            in 1863, to the woman sitting in her parlor,

candlelit, underground. I can see her
            listening to shells explode, writing herself

into history, asking what is to become
            of all the living things in this place?

This whole city is a grave. Every spring—
            Pilgrimage—the living come to mingle

with the dead, brush against their cold shoulders
            in the long hallways, listen all night

to their silence and indifference, relive
            their dying on the green battlefield.

At the museum, we marvel at their clothes—
            preserved under glass—so much smaller

than our own, as if those who wore them
            were only children. We sleep in their beds,

the old mansions hunkered on the bluffs, draped
            in flowers—funereal—a blur

of petals against the river's gray.
            The brochure in my room calls this

living history. The brass plate on the door reads
            Prissy's Room. A window frames

the river's crawl toward the Gulf. In my dream,
            the ghost of history lies down beside me,

rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.
Natasha Trethewey
2006
Steamtown National Historic Site. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.
poem

Return to Florence

How do I convey the shoring gold
at the core of the Florentine bells’
commingled chimes?

Vast as a suddenly revealed
field of wheat,
that up-and-away gold
is equivalent to the match-burst
morning I returned,
intent as doubting Thomas,
to my old classroom terrace,
open to the showy, blue yes
of the bustling Arno,
to my timeless, sun-laved
Basilica of Santo Spirito,
and discovered
ebullient citizens reciting,
at a hundred different posts,
the same unbetraying passage
of Dante’s Paradise.
 

Cyrus Cassells
2014
poem

Greetings

I counted the water towers, I counted the active smokestacks.
These were the breadcrumbs I thought would lead me back. Now
I know it’s possible to drive so far we forget why we left, that the
journey continues even after the car breaks down. I used to think
I had no message, but the message is me—bloodshot and hungry,
spilled coffee down the front of my shirt. People of the future,
gather round. I have traveled through ink to greet you.

Charles Rafferty
2018
collection

Teach This Poem: The Classics

Teach This Poem is a weekly series featuring a poem from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help K-12 teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. The following lesson plans from this series feature poems by classic poets, including Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and more.

 

collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

Spring–Summer 2018 issue of American Poets
poem

Compass

I let him do what he will to me—
we are traveling into the waves
and the ocean is torn by swells.

I am cautious. The moon,
it can barely be sensed,
it cannot be helped.

I learned something, I am learning.
I am untangling a rope.
I am caught by a breaking wave.

The boat is rolling from side to side
I tell of my going to town—
What he threw broke through,

it has broken away.

 

Translated into English from Inupiaq by the poet.

 

Taktugziun

Manimaiga—
maliŋniagratugut
mallatuq.

Nuyaqtuŋa. Taqqiq,
ikpiŋanailaq,
iluilaq.

Ilisiruŋa, ilita.tuŋa.
Ilaiyairuŋa akłunaamiik.
Qaaġaaŋa.

Uaałukitaaqtuq umiaq.
Quliaqtuŋa aptauqtuaŋa—
Iitaaga pularuq.

ilaŋa.tuq.

 

Joan Naviyuk Kane
2015
collection

Poetry and Place

In this collection, we examine the significance of place in contemporary American poetry. Here you'll find a range of poems, commentary, and essays that revolve around what we mean by the idea of "home" or of "homelessness" resulting from travel or displacement. Some works deal with a specific time and location, while others focus on a more socially-constructed view of place through the lenses of pop culture and identity. In the end, we hope this collection both confirms and challenges your notion of place in American poetry.

For a more thorough exploration of our theme, check out W. T. Pfefferle's anthology Poets on Place: Essays & Tales from the Road.