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“The End of Exile” by Solmaz Sharif

As the dead, so I come
to the city I am of.
Am without.

To watch play out around me
as theater —

audience as the dead are audience

to the life that is not mine.
Is as not
as never.

Turning down Shiraz’s streets
it turns out to be such

a faraway thing.

A without which
I have learned to be.

From bed, I hear a man in the alley
selling something, no longer by mule and holler
but by bullhorn and jalopy.

How to say what he is selling —

it is no thing
this language thought worth naming.
No thing I have used before.

It is his
life I don’t see daily.
Not theater. Not play.

Though I remain only audience.

It is a thing he must sell daily
and every day he peddles

this thing: a without which

I cannot name.

Without which is my life.

About the Poet

Solmaz Sharif photo credit Emma Larson

photo credit Emma Larson

Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif is the author of “Customs” (Graywolf Press, 2022) and “Look” (Graywolf Press, 2016), a finalist for the National Book Award. She holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley, where she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, and New York University. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, the New York Times, and others. Her work has been recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lannan Foundation, and Stanford University. She is currently the Shirley Shenker Assistant Professor of English at U.C. Berkeley.

Related Event

  • Solmaz Sharif will join poet Tyrone Williams, along with a musical performance by Plant Water, and an art installation by Brandon Watson at the next Just Buffalo Literary Center Silo City Reading Series event from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at Silo City (Marine A), 85 Silo City Row in Buffalo. Doors at 7:00 p.m. Reading begins at 7:30 p.m. Books of the featured poets are available for purchase from Fitz Books online and at the event.

The “Poem of the Week” feature is curated by literary legacy awardee R.D. Pohl.