Forfeiting My Mystique

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.