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Arthur Heifetz



A Second Life 



They came running

when they heard the crash

in the ravine

and found our car

resting on its roof

like a defeated beast,

its doors swung wide

its wheels still spinning,

its horn still blearing.

I screamed your name

and when I saw you

sitting in the dust

nursing your cut leg

I shouted with the villagers

Allahu Akhbar.


At the clinic

they closed the wound

with thread for sewing saddles

and nothing to dull the pain.

You squeezed my hand

as I looked on contritely.

God has granted you, 

the medic said, hayat thaan,

a second life.

Be sure to use it well.



Four decades later

as you lay dying

in our bedroom

amid a clutter of tubes,

too drugged to speak,

I re-arranged the covers

and found the scar now faint

and thought of

all the journeys we had made,

the songs we sang,

the games we played

in this, our second life.


(previously published in Sukoon)





Roberta, né Rawa in Iraq,

weary of explaining to


the salesgirls in cosmetics

her reasons for wearing a hijab,

decided to let her lustrous hair

flow down

and no longer cringed

when her  husband’s friends,

emboldened by cocktails,

gave her a small hug,

but she retained a strong distaste

for pork and household pets

and on her slender neck

she wore the hand of Fatima

just in case the Evil Eye

should take the opportunity

to look her way.



New Year's Poem #2



O to be in Tehran at Nowruz

and watch your dark,


seductive eyes

catch sparks from the flames.

You chase away the mangy jube dogs

sniffing at the gutters

and leap like a doe

through the fires

raging in the streets

your head covered with a black chador,

your son nestled in your arms

gazing in wonder

at the conflagrations.

You give to the flames

your sallow face of winter.

and take from them

the redness of pomegranates

and sweet wine,

of Rumi’s love poems,

of the robes of Haji Firuz

which rustle as his blackened face

bursts into song.


You've arranged the apples,

garlic, berries and pudding.


the sabzeh sprouting from the bowl

like a cleric’s green beard.

You’ve eaten one decorated egg

for each of your children.

You’ve fed the goldfish

circling in their bowls.

You’re ready for whatever

the new year

may choose to deliver. 


(originally published in Up the River)




Desert Views 



Thronged by children

banging on the doors,
we’ve left the last bled
in our dusty white Renault
and turned onto a piste
that hugs the canyon rim,
bouncing from rock to rock,
watching the copper vistas open up
at every hairpin turn
like desert flowers
thirsting for winter rains.

We’ve wandered off the map
with no one to direct us,
not the silent Bedouins
astride their camels,
mummified in their brown burnooses
or the gold-toothed women
in purple robes and silver chains,
clicking their tongues
like disapproving hens.

This very night
we’ll make love
for the first time
in a hut of woven reeds
with moonlight 
streaming through the chinks.

But we know nothing yet
of warm wool blankets
piled against the chill 
of desert winds.
We haven’t seen the stars
above the gorge
incised in the pitch-black sky.
We know only the rock-strewn road,
and the fear of not reaching
the grove of date-palms
by nightfall.


(originally published in Mused)


Art Heifetz teaches ESL to mostly Middle Eastern students in Richmond, Va. He served in the Peace Corps in Tunisia for two years

and also taught in Iran.


He has had 140 poems published in 11 countries, recently winning second prize in the Reuben Rose international competition in Israel for a poem about Peru.


See more of his work at


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