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Seventeen year old Ari Ahdieh has written a poem, inspired by his grandfather’s story as a Baha’i in Iran and an immigrant to the United States.
As birds migrate across thousands of miles of open sea,
Just so he traveled, but on the wings of The Queen Mary.
After paying fifty dollars to journey into his new life,
For six days he navigated an unknown world on the boat,
With fancy dining rooms and alcohol he could not drink.
In the city that never sleeps he found work any way he could,
In the kitchen, as a dishwasher, busboy, etc.,
Which could help him stay off the streets, and maybe put him in college.
He went by Jimmy, Henry, Bob, or any basic white name,
He knew his Arab one would not do.
He was a believer in God, a follower of the Baha’i Faith,
Even after persecution in his home country.
Now, he was an American, but not quite so.
He did not seem to enjoy the liberties which he had heard of,
Nor was he respected for his identity.
But as he always says today: “God Bless America.”
He made a home in New York, getting married and raising kids in Jackson Heights,
And held fast to his religion, with the help of his wife.
Hussein Ahdieh had been a scout, searching for signs of life,
and finding something more:
That opportunity was me,
my brother, my sister, my cousins,
My culture too.
For that lone Iranian immigrant was not just a scout, but a gardener,
Who planted the seed for my existence and that of my loved ones.
And so today we still look for the same things he did:
A place to belong, but also a place to grow, a place to teach our faith.
Now I have the opportunity he helped give me, and I can’t just let it go.
Ari shared the following with us about his poem:
Growing up I always have had the example of both my grandfather and grandmother who came to this country and continued to teach the faith that they found so important. They both were very intelligent and had many successes, which they could have focused on over their religious devotion. However, they continued to fervently follow their faith to God and this has motivated me in turn to do so.
This inspires me to continue to find ways to be a part of my Baha’i community even in times when I am very busy with other parts of my life. Of course, I can always do better and strive to continue improving to better my Baha’i community and community at large.
Although I used to write Haikus back in middle school, I have not often written poems since then. In fact, this poem was actually created as an assignment for my English class. However, after I had the idea to write about my grandfather’s immigration to the United States, it became something that I cared more about and that I really wanted to get right. So I called Hussein up and asked him a few additional questions so that I could improve the poem and make sure everything was accurate. The poem also feels like a call to action for me as it reminds me of my family’s struggle to put me where I am. This motivates me to continue my journey as a Baha’i and as a citizen to better my community and world.
We are thankful to Ari for sharing this poem with us. We are also grateful to Hussein Ahdieh for sharing about his memoir that details his journey from Iran to New York, the book that inspired Ari’s poem.
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