Ali Alizadeh

Ali Alizadeh is an Iranian-born Australian writer. His books include the novel The New Angel (Transit Lounge Publishing, 2008); with Ken Avery, translations of medieval Sufi poetry Fifty Poems of Attar (, 2007); and the collection of poetry Eyes in Times of War (Salt Publishing, 2006). The main themes of his writing are history, spirituality and dissent. His current projects include a nonfiction novel about the life of his grandfather (to be published in 2010) and, with John Kinsella, an anthology of Persian poetry in translation.  





A Familial Rennaissance
for Saf


Like the Italian one, my family’s rebirth
spawned masterpieces, caused a breakdown


like the civil wars of the Reformation
with few victors, countless casualties. Mine


a kind of persecution: bullied, beaten
at school for being a ‘dirty terrorist’ and


my resurrection stunted, my ‘new
start’ delayed. Immigration was more than


traumatic, abusive, for my father: defeat
and capitulation at the hands of employers


dreading a foreign-educated ‘wog’ without
‘acceptable’ Western work history. Mum’s


reshaping as an ‘Aussie’ almost aborted:
she returned to Iran (temporarily, it turned out)


when denied recognition of her degrees
by the union. I took up drugs; became a drunk


to forget the bullies, banish from my ears
the din of my parents’ jousts in the kitchen. But


my sister, a triumphant genius, the Leonardo
of this renaissance tale: the death of her Iranian


identity, followed by calm gestation – caring
daughter in the crossfire between workless father


and alcoholic brother – and then, yes, successful
delivery: a modern young woman, her alacrity


salary, property, paid holidays, etc. In photos

her posture, an homage to Michelangelo’s David.




A Sufi’s Remonstrance


I’m sick of You. Your magnificence
precipitates mental pain, ethical


cramps. That You continue to shine
blinds, asphyxiates, twists the sinews


of my words. How dare You bewitch
in an aeon like this? 14 year-old


Iraqi girl kidnapped, raped, burnt alive
by American servicemen; Palestinian


toddler’s head pulped by the shrapnel
of Israeli bombs; sleepy Israeli civilian


shattered by rubble while drinking tea; not
to forget the forgotten diseased, starved


billions expiring in the squalid ghettos
of ‘globalisation’. Could You possibly


justify the garish brilliance of your
intractable, effervescent spring


as rivers shrivel and soil turns saline
due to pitiless ‘progress’? Or the candle


of compassion in this starless night
of cyclic hatred? I honestly can’t help


my revulsion at Your volition to remain
prodigious, enchanting, Beloved. So what


if You discharge life, if my life is nothing
but a valley along the trajectory of return


to You? You flaunt the ecstasies of Union
and transcendence when reality demands


outrage and obduracy. Why won’t You
let me loathe my fellow creatures instead


of being mesmerised by Your allure? It turns
my stomach, aches my intellect, since I hope


and even occasionally smile, sleep and dream
in spite of the calamities, because of You.



I can’t pretend
there’s beauty to exhume

from these slabs
concrete and sandstone

planted in the sand
funereal totems. I can’t

harmonise with the drill
fracturing the boulders

beneath the desert
puncturing the landscape

holes to insert
pillars as foundation

for incipient towers
towards a veritable

concrete forest. What
palm trees remain, inspire

the outline of the artificial
island, beach resort

to A-list celebrities. Camels
happy and humanised

logos on T-shirts
at the gargantuan mall

the largest in the world
outside of USA. Burger King

and co. don’t clash
but complement the Arabic

kitsch. I can’t conjure
my gifts (meager

as they are) enough
to resemble this reality

in an aesthetically refined
string of words: only this

beveled cluster
of clauses and the like

summoned by a Colossus
of a place called Dubai.