DARIUS ATEFAT-PECKHAM


Darius Atefat-Peckham is an Iranian-American poet and essayist. His work has appeared
in Texas Review, Zone 3, Nimrod, Brevity, Crab Orchard Review, Cimarron Review, The
Southampton Review
and elsewhere. In 2018, Atefat-Peckham was selected by the Library
of Congress as a National Student Poet, the nation's highest honor presented to youth poets
writing original work. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including My Shadow
is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora
(University of Texas Press). Atefat-Peckham
currently studies Creative Writing at Harvard College.






Here's a Love Poem to Blueberries
~february 7th, 2020

Just minutes before the
anniversary, I am
inexplicably thinking

about blueberries, and the
evening of my love
crushing some

with her teeth. Golru
in Farsi, is flower-face, lacking
equivalence. I've seen many

things I haven't seen. Like a man
sanitizing his utensils
methodically with an onion

on Valiasr street in Tehran. Like
the swift openings of many
fruits. So, yes, I am thinking

about lifespan. Under ideal
conditions a blueberry bush lives
sixty years. The way

my mother was, maybe,
half-life of a blueberry
bush, crown jewel

of Iran, first masterpiece of god, green
stars like crown and eyes, dark sheen
before ruin. In Iran, there is no good word

for blueberry. In the soil
there, this fruit is nearly
impossible. And so, since

there is not much of a place to go,
I look between my love's teeth, and
as I see it in these moments,

there are worlds
and universes and little blue
pieces of flesh like night.

It is just comfort and I am just
thinking. I am always thinking.
There is only so much of life

to live. Only so much time
before. Under ideal conditions.
So much. Only so much.






Here's a love poem to a boat I saw once with my Bibi in Venice

that was not a boat, really, but the mangled
carcass of a man's pickup riding the surf.
It was perfect, I thought then,
plowing right into the venetian surf at sunset
like a whale—a tiny whale—all of Italy
cheering at its banks. I snapped
a photograph. This was before I knew what it was like
to travel, to feel anything but lonesome, before
I knew how to share the roses on the garden
path with a lover or friend, or with anyone, before I learned
that a truck could plow the surf just as easily
as a boat, with the right engineer at the wheel,
with the right flowers dipped-in to kiss the water's
depths, so similar to the Bosch we crowded in to see like linemen
everybody bumping elbows, my mother
wandering reading each and every museum label,
she was amazing, thirteen years old I was determined
to be my mother, to never be my grandmother, who all through this sat
on a bench in the lobby, massaging the soreness
from her knees—my mother, who would've loved as I did
the car that was not a boat, loved it so much more than these
weird paintings, loved it the way she loved us, the way she
loved those turtles that struggled onto her lawn in Milledgeville
like army-crawling vets after a long journey, as if they wished
to shed their shells like overcoats to expose their new
naked skin, the way she loved her own turtle
who spent its whole miserable life filling the laundry-room
with its stink. Is it my fate to remember the moment
this animal was set free? Its certain death? To find
beauty in these hellish characters, everywhere,
upside-down, legs flailing, heads twisted to the sky?
My knees begin to ache. The museum-goers all around me
are unbearable. The text is too small to see. I try
to remember as much as I can of the many Mother
Maries and swaddled baby Jesuses during the long
elevator ride down, dreading Bibi's wink which
says, yes, much more like me as she throws her
bag over her shoulder and points out a nude photo
by the water-bus, and the two men nearby
drooling, and us laughing
the hardest we ever would again.






Nature of Crisis

It's like they're running an animal prison! you say, your thumb cocked, your voice
echoed as if through snowy fields and the neighbors' dogs miraculous and silent
for the first time in months so the entire cul de sac, the dogs' coats
shimmering, the bowls of those magnolia blossoms sputtering open, and whatever
was beneath us could hear your great unbelievable sound. It was about
this same time, that you, my father, expressed to me, in horrified
disbelief, you hadn't even written your own will. What could you ever will to me?
Besides the whiteness of all those winters we spent together
in the car hurting and on the hunt for something tall and green
to hang it from. We all come from places to which we might never
return. Iran, The United States, the rocks
and soil. I can't help but imagine my mother the way
she was, taking careful steps up on the earth or sitting
at her desk writing. There is no difference, to me, between then
and now in conjuring her up like grass up on the earth's turning. It's easy, in fact,
for me to imagine her now, mourning. I think she'd feel every last breath
like small mouths moving all across her body. Let me offer
something else, something karmic. I swear, this morning, in a quiet and tired
state of isolation I saw that there was a bird and as I watched, it flew
into the mesh screen of one of our large windows
as if to join us at dinner in our chairs.
Stunned, it fell back to earth. I thought, then that maybe my mother died
just like this. So that I might see the ruffled thing rise, shake its body
into order for launching itself
to the air. It's awful. She cared more than anybody
we ever knew. There are days and weeks when I catch myself
caring so little and then let loose like the river which winds
around our splendid house. It was this week, when we finally were reminded
of our own mortality, and that of the earth's, that you said, as if
you had always been this way, crouching and peering into that
bemisted river to bring up, with your bare fist, some sputtering fish
if you had to, grinning, that the earth's will was something
karmic. These deaths, you claimed, a warning. The same man who, years ago,
when I offered some kind of answer, tightened your grip
on their absence, snapped Nothing happens
for a reason. Things just happen
, looked out at the passing
greenery and then, smiling, drenched, threw me back again like my grandfather
who once took me to see the place of his former work, and then the gardens
out back where he and my mother used to chase green-crested birds
during his lunch break. I stepped toward one. It didn't move
a muscle, just stared at me with all of its immaculate
eyes. Papa explained you had to run towards them—really
play. I don't know what it was that made me sprint towards one and look
back at him, like those birds, unmoving. I like to think that if my mother had had
the time to write her own will, she might've written only one thing, what was inscribed
on the back of her sole wooden carving which feels now like it was made
just for me, Remembering fondly how many peacocks we chased together—
Love you, Susie
. Let me give you my will. Bestow, unto you,
so that the neighbors might hear me,
rest—the end of this pandemic for you, the silence of those three caged
mutts. Let me revoke all the people on the park path who you can't touch. Disappear
myself, if only for a moment, and the dog-leash and the grass so you might kneel
into what you will, your muscled chest heavy
with breath. I present to you
unwitting reckless miracle. Remember? To find it was the worst part,
your hand, fingers spread, the pine-sap
melding us until it was me and you, the young fir and its nest
of stranded, motherless birds and even those maggots and beetles chewing life
from the upended roots. It was the endlessness of those New Hampshire woods
and the rest of what lived on inside it. It was for all of us, just as beautiful, axed
and flying, pitching our voices, shifting our branches against the road.



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