Underground Parking in Tehran, 1984

Editor’s Choice: 2024 Philadelphia Stories Poetry Contest


“We must take shelter darling,” my mom

whispered in my ear at 2’oclock in the morning.

Her soft words were preludes to staccatos of sirens.

We had 5 minutes before the bombardment would begin.

An exodus of terrified neighbors ran through

the maze of staircases and dark corridors towards

the underground parking.


I saw my friend Shadi running barefoot.

She had to choose between finding her slippers

or grabbing her cat, Pishi,

and she had picked the latter.

Her 3-year-old brother was oblivious

to what was happening.

He walked straight to the back wall

of the parking lot with a box of crayons,

drawing hieroglyphs of zigzags

and squiggly lines.

To him, this was merely a late-night potluck.


People gathered around with their survival kits:

food, water, blankets and transistor radios

to follow the news. The parking lot was dark and cold

like a tomb of a forgotten king.

I wondered how long we may be stranded this time,

and what would happen if the bombs hit our building.


I sat cross-legged on the cement ground

in a cocoon of blankets and closed my eyes.

I could hear Shadi’s cat meowing in the background,

Mrs. Mirza praying, “Ya Ali, help us,”

and the weak radio frequency dying and resurrecting.

Shakiba Hashemi is an Iranian-American poet, artist and teacher. She holds a BFA in Drawing and Painting from Laguna College of Art and Design. She is a winner of 2023 Best of the Net Award and has been nominated for Pushcart Prize. She is the author of the chapbook Murmur (Word Poetry, 2023) and her work has appeared in The New York Quarterly, Atlanta Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Indianapolis Review and elsewhere.