Death after Death

For Javad Rouhi

They were three
and one is dead—

in one prison among many

arrested for dancing, clapping, chanting—
burning headscarves—
in one protest among many
in a land where the choice is
between “hijab” and . . . —

In one solitary cell—among many
subjected to electric shocks—batons—
whippings—ice cubes on testicles—
rape—among many—

Their body a record of
broken toes and noses—
incontinence—rectal bleeding—
loss of mobility—and memory—and speech—

One prisoner—among many—
confessed to burning the Quran
among many—crimes not committed—

sentenced to death for
“waging war against God”
“corruption on Earth”

They are many
and some are dead

The tortures continued—
in the name of
most feared god—
the master-torturer—
in a dungeon
no Lazarus emerges from

One died of torture—
before he was hanged

The choice was between
“death” and . . . —

They were three
and one is dead—

They are many
and many are dead—

We are many
and silence
is dead

Author’s Note: Alternative spelling: Roohi, an Iranian protestor in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, who was arrested in September 2022 and died in custody in August 2023.


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.