Darius Atefat-Peckham

Ode to the House Where I Was Born

~for Isabella


Where I watch you pull on and peel off my grandmother’s clothes 
like earth layers. Where she works late into the night to mend these 

fabrics for you. Where she asks after your weight, your 
dimensions, leads you by the arm as if into the meadows of many closets 

filled with all I’ve failed to inhabit—body-suits, evening 
gowns, belts and buckles and shoulder pads. I only stop my Bibi at the casual 

mention of the wedding dress, my mother’s, her wink like one of the many 
pearls painstakingly inlaid by her own hand. I watch as you play 

dress-up, become my mother, my grandmother—the stunning moments 
you even become yourself. Now you laugh and twirl

on garden-stones in Tehran. Now you step across 
the boardwalks of Geneva, smile back. Until, here and together 

in the dark, I touch you, selfish, hungry, barely checking over
my shoulder the way I always do, your chilled palm

pressing my face into your shoulder, playing a bit 
with the small hairs of my neck, shaping 

my face. I’ve never known newness 

this way, as if my mother and brother’s smiles could blend into 
one. And I can tell that you, too, love 

the way you look in this foreign mirror, these new clothes, the smoothness 
and ripple of you as the material stretches over a new

body. In the village-town of Kalpurgan, they believe that earth is 

medicinal. They paint clay into their bodies. It cures. They wash themselves
clean. Something stays as they watch bits of themselves become 

the river. Something goes. As I pluck your chin 
from the soil, I feel less alone. Something stays. The siren voice of my father,

gold-crested tables, a water-logged basement, my mother’s 

paintings—everything framed.
And I think: what we make of our lives is just mud. What we lift and hold now
 
just the arm of a lover. How with our lover we return to dust. 

Darius Atefat-Peckham is an Iranian-American poet and essayist. His work has appeared in Poem-a-Day, Indiana Review, Barrow Street, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Florida Review and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbook How Many Love Poems (Seven Kitchens Press). In 2018, Atefat-Peckham was selected by the Library of Congress as a National Student Poet. His work has recently appeared in the anthology My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora (University of Texas Press). Atefat-Peckham lives in Huntington, West Virginia and currently studies English and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard College.
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