Forfeiting My Mystique's image
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It is pretty to be sweet

and full of pardon like

a flower perfuming the

hands that shred it, but

all piety leads to a single

point: the same paradise

where dead lab rats go.


If you live small you’ll

be resurrected with the

small, a whole planet

of minor gods simpering

in the weeds. I don’t know

anyone who would kill

anyone for me. As boys


my brother and I

would play love, me

drawing stars on

the soles of his feet,

him tickling my back.

Then we’d play harm,

him cataloging my sins


to the air, me throwing

him into furniture.

The algorithms for living

have always been

delicious and hollow,

like a beetle husk in a

spider’s paw. Hafez said


fear is the cheapest room

in a house, that we ought

to live in better

conditions. I would

happily trade all my

knowing for plusher

carpet, higher ceilings.


Some nights I force

my brain to dream me

Persian by listening

to old home movies

as I fall asleep. In the

mornings I open my eyes

and spoil the séance. Am I


forfeiting my mystique?

All bodies become sicker

bodies. This is a kind of object

permanence, a curse bent

around our scalps resembling

grace only at the tattered

edges. It’s so unsettling


to feel anything but good.

I wish I was only as cruel as

the first time I noticed

I was cruel, waving my tiny

shadow over a pond to scare

the copper minnows.

Rockabye, now I lay me


down, et cetera. The world

is what accumulates — 

the mouth full of meat,

the earth full of meat.

My grandfather

taught his parrot

the ninety-nine holy


names of God. Al-Muzil:

The Humiliator. Al-Waarith:

The Heir. Once, after

my grandfather had been

dead for a year, I woke

from a dream (I was a

sultan guzzling flies


from a crystal boot) with

his walking cane deep

in my mouth. I kept sucking

until I fell back asleep.

There are only two bones

in the throat, and that’s if you

count the clavicle. This


seems unsafe, overdelicate,

like I ought to ask for

a third. As if anyone

living would offer.

Corporeal friends are

spiritual enemies, said

Blake, probably gardening


in the nude. Today I’m trying

to scowl more, mismatch

my lingerie. Nobody

seems bothered enough.

Some saints spent their

whole childhoods biting

their teachers’ hands and


sprinkling salt into spider-

webs, only to be redeemed

by a fluke shock

of grace just before

death. May I feather

into such a swan soon.

The Book of Things


Not to Touch gets longer

every day: on one

page, the handsome puppy

bred only for service. On

the next, my mother’s

face. It’s not even enough

to keep my hands to myself — 


there’s a whole chapter

about the parts of me

that could get me

into trouble. In Farsi,

we say jaya shomah khallee

when a beloved is absent

from our table — literally:


your place is empty.

I don’t know why I waste

my time with the imprecision

of saying anything else,

like using a hacksaw

to slice a strawberry when

I have a razor in my


pocket. To the extent I am

necessary at all, I am

necessary like a roadside deer — 

a thing to drive past, to catch

the white of, something

to make a person pause,

say, look, a deer.



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