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After You

By April 11, 2022April 25th, 2023No Comments

After You

O my seventh year, the year I turned seven
O wondrous moment of departure
After you everything that happened, happened in a mass of craziness and insanity

After you the window that had been such a vivid and bright connection
between the bird and us
between the wind and us




After you that clay doll that said nothing
nothing but water, water, water
drowned in water

After you we killed the voice of the cicada
and became attached
to the sound of the school bell rising over our ABCs
and to the whistle of factories

After you our play space that had been under tables moved
from beneath the tables
to behind desks
and from behind desks
to the tops of desks
and we played at the tables and lost
We lost your colors, O my seventh year

After you we betrayed each other
After you we erased all the scrawled memories
from the plastered temple walls of the alleyway
with bullets and
blood spatter
After you we went to the squares
and screamed
“Long live….”
“Death to…”
and in the square’s uproar we applauded for the little singing coins
that had cleverly come into town for a visit

After you we murdered each other
We judged for love
and while our hearts
sat uneasily in our pockets
we judged in love’s name

After you we set off for the cemeteries
and Death was breathing under grandmother’s chador
and Death was that enormous tree
where on this side of the beginning the living
were tying cloth wishes to its exhausted branches
and on the far side of the end the dead
were clawing at its phosphorescent roots
and Death was seated atop the holy tomb
and at each of its corners suddenly a blue tulip lamp

I hear the sound of the wind
I hear the sound of the wind, O my seventh year

I got up and drank water
and suddenly I remembered
how your newly-planted fields feared the swarm of locusts
How much must be paid?
How much must be paid
to grow this cement cube?

Whatever had to be lost we lost
We set out without a lamp
and the moon, the moon, the kind feminine moon, was always there
in our childhood memory of a mud-and-thatch-plastered roof
and above those newly-planted fields that feared the swarms of locusts

How much must be paid?

Published in:

The Paris Review, Issue 233 (July 2020).