Volume 68, Number 2 · Spring 2019


You weren’t in your house.
The restive candles waved us in.

I didn’t see you climbing up the minbar
as I bent down, a dome to shelter you.

In the bites from the chains,
the taste for iron in blood,

picketers at your door.
You didn’t come when I summoned

the army of your names,
when I looked in your pupils pleading

to rise from under another father,
as he pressed and chafed me.

You didn’t come with sirens,
in the shortcuts of California sunshine and purple hearts

or when I shared the pulse of a lamp socket
with my sister, hoping to touch your veil

and be punished for it;
in the pickups piled with halal lamb

offerings at intersections in Tehran.
You didn’t protest when I renounced

us fugitives from the past
and braced my American lover tight,

not wanting your hand to slip in;
when I couldn’t reach you

through your censures and sentences,
when my father bartered with you

for my sister in jail
and I insisted you let us go.

You weren’t the one who untangled
my joints, locked in the Summit Lake,

submitting to the glaciers’ persuasion.
You weren’t translating the words spilling

from the morning’s tower;
weren’t wielding a pendulum of fire,

splashing light over the outbreak of red poppies
at Mount Damavand’s feet.

The stars aren’t the sparks off your anvil.
You mutter in the dark, like a mosquito,

thirsty cherub keeping vigil. When I switch
on the light to swat at your whispers,

there is blood, my hand, the wall, and I’m
infected with your attributes.

Kaveh Bassiri is an Iranian-American writer and translator. He has received the Bellingham Review’s 49th Parallel Award and a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. His poems appear in the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Nimrod International Journal, the Mississippi Review, and Best New Poets. His chapbook 99 Names of Exile, the winner of the Gloria E. Anzaldúa Poetry Prize, will be published in 2019.