poem index

Poem-A-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact [email protected].

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.