Crossing salt marshes in German sun,
my body brackets itself into a violable mass of skin:
I’m brown again, insignificant as a footnote. My father’s pride
in his second-hand Renault Megane—after years of driving
the white sedan with the duct-taped side mirror—knives me
in all the wrong places. I’m sick of how diligently
he cleans the doors at the car wash. What we gather in this country
is so thin I can brush it off with a tap of my finger
from the can of my rhubarb soda. The pompous trees, he says,
are framing the autobahn. He thinks I’m blessed to grow up in cornfields,
my hair still fragrant with Esfand seeds. How far away the war feels here:
clusters of seniors doze in farm houses, gleeful and functional
as elbows dangling out a window. Who can see the dead dove
in the pool? Who can reach the eye of God? Even the street signs,
unlike Kabul, buck close to the earth: dirt that has stickled
my mouth with Empfängnis. As if an Irrlicht with sweet sirens,
language lured me in, then punished me for believing in its palace.
Sehnsucht, sometimes I’m fearful of proximity to my father,
because it’s been long since I’ve touched a man I haven’t undressed,
because looking into his mud-green eyes
makes me pity him. We abandoned Allah with the bombs
but the duniya we avoid taints our breaths:
you can hear it in the quiet with which my father surveys
the swallowed asphalt, or how predictably he turns up Ahmad Zahir on the stereo
whenever I joke about the deer that, years ago, split itself on our windshield—
everything that fragile wants to be hurt, he claims with clenched teeth.
Aria Aber was born to Afghan parents in Germany. She currently lives in New York City to pursue her MFA in poetry as a Writers in Public Schools fellow at NYU. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from The Poetry Review, The Journal, Best British Poetry, Muzzle Magazine, Prelude, Lighthouse, Reservoir, decomP, and others. She has been awarded the New Writing Prize in Poetry from Wasafiri, as well as fellowships from Kundiman and Dickinson House. She teaches undergraduate writing courses at NYU.
This poem appeared first in Swimmers UK.