Rebecca Ruth Gould

Bara Gumbad Mosque

A certain slant of light
penetrates the frame of the
mihrab with dawn’s dew.

Bara Gumbad masjid
in downtown Delhi
is washed in white.

Newlyweds crowd around
for photo shots.
Businessmen jog.

Parakeets screech.
Pigeons roost.
Scarlet rugs soften the blow

as three elderly men
bend their bodies
to the earth.

The world is awash in light,
absorbing, without knowing,
memories of Muslim rule.

I return home to the news
of Christchurch. A massacre:
fifty dead for a racist cat call.

Meanwhile, this Islamic temple
keeps alive the flame of God
in a godless world.

Golconda Fort

The night show begins.
You pass the mosquito repellent to me.
Pink blue & yellow flash over the ruins.

Plaintive moans lament
Aurangzaeb’s attack.
The ancient fortress crumbles.

A doting husband photographs
his pregnant wife
covered in a saffron hijab.

I mention I am unmarried,
& your hands squirm over my breasts,
plundering my body.

You thought being single
made me your prized possession.
In fact the opposite is true:

the less tied I am to a man
the less point there is in
having sex with you.


On the road from the airport
industries spread across the metropolis.
Cement covers your layers of history.
Hyderabad, you could be Singapore

or Abu Dhabi. For some,
you are an ancient city.
For others, you are a new tech hub
For me, you are the culmination

of my search for adulthood.
Dawn’s orange moon shines
over automated rickshaws
fording a sea of trucks.

We speed past rock-hewn skyscrapers,
pink stone buttressing the sky,
curvaceous Telugu & boxy Hindi.
Hyderabad, you are a city

projected onto by many,
a city of young women dressed
in Saudi burqas, a city
that has divided me from myself.

Bird on a Branch

A bird poised on a branch
asked the moon lover
for the number of lives
she had left

before she died.
She plumed her feathers
like a canopy
& tried to breathe free.

The smog was thick
the drone was loud
& the current of sound
raged against her lustrous trill.

On Leaving Iran

The plane ascends. Women disrobe,
crossing into Turkey’s airspace.
Their hair cascades like waterfalls.
I lift my skirt to let my legs breathe.

So much sin is compressed
between my teeth & my toes!
I stride over the pavement.
The wind runs through my hair.

I am happy to unveil—
for myself, not a male guardian—
to return to my body,
to desire myself for myself,

in this corner of the cockpit
poised between two countries,
without male eyes
watching over me.

Rebecca Ruth Gould's poems and translations have appeared in Nimrod, Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Hudson Review, Salt Hill, and The Atlantic Review. She translates from Persian, Russian, and Georgian, and has translated books such as After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Death of Bagrat Zakharych and other Stories by Vazha-Pshavela (Paper & Ink, 2019).

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