top of page

With every Strand of Hair, we Impart our Legacy

Written by Keana Saberi

Graphic by Alyssa Lin

I. زن (Woman)

the day my grandmother passed we laid flowers

tulips and sombol flowers ornately placed across her still body

a silence stitched to the sky

then the sonatas of the birds returned to the juniper hues of her garden

paying homage to her with their lilting song

she’d tenderly attend to her garden

the flowers seemed to comprise her stature

in my mind, her shoulders carried chrysanthemums

her smile resembling the brilliance of lilies

when her hands began to wither

she could not tend to her garden anymore

we held her hands even tighter

with her grasp on life fraying

we took in every moment in her presence

the pain ever present as the unwelcome guest

no one had sought it to linger amongst us as we drank our tea

fear coating even our well disguised syllables

and even when she had left this mortal chaos, we held on

I kissed her forehead one last time

the warmth of her love still present

she had lived in this world with the companionship of flowers

and thus is how she left

she had asked for a celebration of life in place of a funeral

so her wake was populated with flowers of every distinguishable hue

carrying the same loveliness she possessed

in an instant I’d lost her — and though I had feared this day for so long

the perception of pain could not prepare me for the sorrow that struck my heart

but her laugh is contained in the poised petals of flowers

carrying a graceful but almost hidden resilience

her glance is imprinted in my dreams

I am comforted by that glance

but that it now only resides in my memories and photographs is my greatest heartache

that day, my mother and I cut our hair

taking the strands, placing them in the grasp of her hand

a sign of our devotion and admiration

one that transcends life and death

surpassing and redefining the notion of existence

we remember now how we cut our hair that day in March

reverent tears running down our cheeks

II. زندگی (Life)

six months after she passed, I got a haircut

sitting in the chair I recalled pockets of my childhood

my grandmother’s delicate hands poised

combing through my silky hair that would soon become steadfast curls

she would pin my hair slowly, and we’d talk about school

and whatever silly thing I fixated on then

before she’d cut my hair, she’d take out the bright pink hairbrush reserved just for me

I could have sworn that was her silhouette washing my hair that day

six months after I had held her hands in mine for the last time

there she was

reality and illusion casting away distinction

I remembered the characteristic way she peered with concentration down from her glasses

her hair cropped short and evenly melding gray and white

my eyes collapsed under the weight of tears and shampoo suds

blurred vision bringing tangibility

what catapulted me back to reality

my grandmother’s hands carried the wisdom of a wisteria tree

even in their last state of frailty

they maintained a tenderness in the cavernous jaws of pain

no matter how dearly I wished

those were not her hands

III. آزادی (Freedom)

in October

as the perennial heat of summer collapses

we watch as women cut their hair in protest in Iran

showing their solidarity with the movement for women’s autonomy

and those women and girls who lost their lives and livelihoods

at the horrid hands of the regime

for us,

cutting our hair was a sign of respect and love

for a woman whose bravery was illustrated in many ways

from fighting cancer

to advocating for women’s rights in Iran

43 years have passed since she stood in the streets

protesting just as they do now

we feel the possessing parallel as the women raise scissors to their locks of hair

the desire for freedom compelling them to rise up

and it’s as if somehow we knew then

that this act of grief and loss had a poetic reverberation

she, a woman so tethered to this integral act of protest

carries such a symbol of this resistance to injustice with her

both its physical and emotional manifestation

who knew how profoundly hair could resonant in my life

I notice how my curly hair curves and contorts into the aerospace around me

the ringlets are bold but distinctly unaware of their safety

why do I seek to condemn my curls when that was how she last saw me

how I pleat, manufacture ringlets when my own hair cries out to me

begging expression

now I inch further away from repression

this ideal I’ve clung unto

seeking the “desirable” silkiness and volume takes time

pull the strands raw to the marrow

douse with spray and serum

I now cherish the space they hold

they have no idea how fortunate they are to be uninhibited

the Iran that I carry in my heart is that in which my grandmother protested for justice

where my parents met and fell in love

where sabzi and saffron carried their pas de deux into the air

how it hurts my heart that cries and gunshots interfered that melody

where students carry bravery in their arms instead of backpacks now

fearing the continuation of the regime’s corruption more than anything

here I address a love letter to those young women and girls

whose intellect inspires

who stand strong as the police beat them, spirit and bone

casting their hijabs away even as they know they may be killed

for seven months, I have lived with her absence tethered to my every step

sadness seizing the light and dark unrelentingly

in those seven months

I have looked for even just a sliver of her characteristic serenity in the glances of strangers desperate to pretend she hasn’t left this earth

I have looked and seen her in the faces of the women I love and value in my life

my grandmother’s legacy can be seen in those women and young girls

her actions setting a foundation for the fervor of these protestors

I see her alongside me as I protest

her strength empowering my voice to carry on

even as pain pulls at every vocal cord


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page