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Meet Keiko!

A poem by Fatemeh Keshavarz


Twenty Years ago, when we first moved to St. Louis

I met this lively graduate student named Keiko

After twenty odd years, it is hard to recall details beyond her round face framed by short shiny black hair

But I remember the way she moved through the building with a combination

of agility and grace, in bursts of short successive moves - much the way robins would explore a tree (without making noise or knocking anything down)


A year after we had met, Keiko died - suddenly - of lung cancer



"I didn't know Keiko smoked!" I said to the teary-eyed friend who brought the news of her death.

"She didn't," he said rather hurriedly, and added after a silence, "she was born in Hiroshima."

Neither of us said much after that.



Keiko's round face and shiny black hair have come back, often, these past few days

And every time, I have caught myself drafting a letter in my head, a letter I know I will not put in the mail:



"Dear Senator Clinton!  

I write with a personal request.

If we were careless enough to hand you the key that opens the Oval Office

And with it as many war fronts across the globe as you wish

Please do yourself a favor, throw it away and do not look for it!


You may want to find out first

Why the idea of "obliterating" seventy million people does not make you shudder



And if you have the time to pass through St. Louis Missouri,

Please stop by and meet Keiko Yamakawa

Her round face smiling from a hand-made picture frame

Ashes of Hiroshima in her lungs"


St. Louis, Missouri

April 29, 2008



Fatemeh Keshavarz is professor of Persian and comparative literature and chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis. She is author of four previous books, including Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than "Lolita" in Tehran,  Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal Al-Din Rumi and a volume of poetry.


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