The Fight

for Toomaj Salehi

I’m a singer—I’m a writer—
I’m not for sale—

My pen won’t forgive me
if I write in fear

I came back to life
after twenty days—
broken fingers
broken ribs
broken legs
my eyesight dim—

alone in this cell
but I won’t give in
two hundred days
alone in this hell

I need a lawyer—can’t get a lawyer—
I need a doctor—can’t get a doctor—

My bones are broken
My words are not—
My eyesight is dimmed
My vision is not—


In this bout between
words and silence
I’m the one standing tall

I bob and weave
words, words, words

Rap is my pen—
I punch lies in the gut—
clinch the censor—
footwork with words—

I write what should be—
and what should not—

I write of their crimes—
I write of our fight—

Rap is protest—
the voice of the voiceless—
hanging on gallows
or rotting in jail
a roof for the homeless
who sleep in a grave

Rap is my crime—
my “corruption on earth” [efn_note]A crime under the Islamic Republic of Iran’s laws that carries death penalty. [/efn_note]
so I call out their corruption on earth—

They think they’re gods
They want me to die—
cause I can see
right through their lie

But once the voice
always the voice—
I’m the voice
of the voiceless—
I’m the voice
of the voice—

Toomaj Salehi  is an Iranian dissident rapper detained for a second time on October 30, 2022, for his participation in “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests in Iran.


Bänoo Zan is a poet, librettist, translator, teacher, editor and poetry curator, with more than 250 published poems and poetry-related pieces as well as three books including Songs of Exile and Letters to My Father. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Toronto’s most diverse and brave poetry reading and open mic series (inception: 2012). Her social media links are: LinkedIn; Instagram; Facebook; Twitter. Bänoo, along with Cy Strom, is the co-editor of the poetry anthology: “Woman, Life, Freedom: Poems for the Iranian Revolution.” Deadline for sending poems is March 2024. Find the submission guidelines here: Read other articles by Bänoo.