Maheen's Collage

By 
Nilofar Shidmehr

“Murder me if this is all it takes to make me beautiful”
—Iranian proverb, only used by women

My mom loves us, loves to
make us beautiful,
make my sister and me
into one girl—
a pageant of Persia.

For this, she is going to slaughter us,
then select and refine
the body parts, which are good
for the marriage contest and bind
them together in a package
she proudly calls,
the daughter of Islamic Republic
of Maheen, ready and present
for judgment day.

The unwanted parts go to the garbage
like our umbilical cords did.
It brings no pain
to get rid of the undesired.

My mother first cuts off my breasts,
re-rounds them so that they’ll pass
the pencil test and stick them
to the torso of my sister,
adorned with a flat belly that needs
no further trimming,
small from many years
of strict dieting. 

Our legs have to be joined together
to be long enough, and she’ll add
my slender arms, unwanted
black hair removed by laser.

The chosen face is my sister’s:
she has already got a nose job
and made her cheeks stand out,
with the extra flesh she had
the surgeon remove from her behind.
But mother gouges out my eyes
to insert into the sockets
of that other daughter she fashions
for the jury’s final decision.

My mother’s ideal model
for each body part comes
from Desperate Housewives,
but not eyebrows—
they should be elaborate
and thick, like those of all thin Persian women
from classical miniatures.

Ass is not hard enough, my mother sighs,
as she lays our corpses flat,
side by side like twins
on a white and hard sanitized bed,
and cuts us part by part,
while with the gaze of a former judge—
my father’s—she makes
her careful and hard choices.

Iranian born, Nilofar Shidmehr is a B.C. Book Prize nominated poet and a PhD researcher on poetic inquiry. She is a part of the Iranian women’s movement. She lives with her husband in Yaletown.

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