“and even you forgot those brilliant flashes seen from afar” -Ruth Stone

Autobiography

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I am the age of exploration
a book written in an attempt
to force chronology
I’m still at the public bathhouse
steam, haunted by caresses
of the djinn’s wedding
climbing walls to smell
orange blossoms over
still water
and the bored lifeguard
at the pool
I am the age of science books
a revised memory
a second life
in the blink of an eye
a poem written
in contempt for abolished taste-zones
I am the age of precision
a joy honed as retribution
institutionalized hopes of tame
a fear sown down
the length of my penis
the fear
of a wrong mouth
I tasted him
brined with pre-cum
knocked over the ash-tray
for the kiss
I’m the age of intimacy
in bed with pain
and in pain with fear
something I’ll grow
with such immediate knowledge
until death’s greater teachings:
I am the age of pain
but I’ll grow
that daily hurt
brick by brick
from light
I am the age of Eureka
the yard-length of a dream
counted in missed workdays
and self-care bath-bombs
the rush of endorphin
when history
meets my sex
I am the age of grief
my body extends what it cannot intend
I looked back and the most-searched for
was the word “Sorrow” so I’ll stop
the mourners come with a presumed request
for me to keep quiet about attempts at suicide
they don’t like translated grief
they want only the transmissions
so I weep and collect my tears in an egg cup
his picture at the pool, smiling
the SSRI heat exhaustion
a fox visited its copper complement
a fox
and a lack of a fox
I am the age of wounds
the dream’s machinery
hope’s exhaust pipe to the sky
I am the city’s profoundest fear
I am the death grips of teeth on a breath
…escaping a sentence
I am the age of argument
an ex-monarch’s rhetoric
applauded
as the Instagram emblem for resistance
and the flag’s previous iterations
for the march against
I am the age of prayer
eyes closed for the
Closer than your jugular
the fear of bending sexwards
and catching in that reflection
a glimpse of the overseer
that closer than your jugular
watching me masturbate
or the closer than your jugular
beard that scratches my beard
I’m the age of consent
marching under banners
an AK-47 to graduate high school
a few steal bullets
others get a boot to the neck
the factory owner’s son
and a forced military re-assignment
who do you think you are wavers signed
and paintings of martyrs
tower above
blood
guns
symbolic roses blossoming
Shamlu’s Crimson Bloom of a Shirt
or
tulips from the martyr’s blood
I’m the age of aspiration
the age of romanticizing
the spectacle of sacrifice
I’m the age of sobriety
in a language where being drunk
is a heroic gesture
I’m the age of worry
holding onto the discolored plush
of the profoundest childhood security
I woke up one day and there was death
didn’t do my math homework that day
I’m the age of consent: blood-letting
with fists full of ashes
I’m the age of belief. the graveyard and its lettuce garden, rumoured irrigations of sewage.
I’ve never liked bonfires
I’ve never liked singer-songwriters
I’ve never liked the sun
the beach
I’m the age of shadows, played on the wall in two dimensional myth
but I know my shadow extends to hug my figure: I’m the one who bleeds it
a bee passes through, renting real-estate from my darkness
I remember schools built in Illumination, philosophers dedicated
to the source of my darkness
in fear of unrelenting light
I am an age I wished to be
and every age that came before
I am an age in the bliss of an eyelid
closed onto the horror of dark corridors
with mother never home
empty prayer matt
and dad’s car tires crackling
on a pebble
the asphalt giving way
to my 6-lane Serengeti
car tires on asphalt
headlights and shadows
crashing to the ceiling fan
like two-dimensional foam
atop the nautical darkness
wave by wave the cars
and my overseen snow-capped mount
kissing the smog halo
kissing our mouths
exhaust-smoked
to the sky

Dramatis Personae

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the poet’s hand softens the glare of the sun
             a city                     breathing
in the wake of prophets
prisoners of wars
who never learned the lingua franca
                            a thief’s hand is caught
a sheikh comes to rescue with anecdotes
his worn-out sandals                 a vestigium
to illuminate a passersby’s mind
the witness           now bright with necessity
feeds the prisoner his last drop of water
                             his last drop of wine
                             and sets sail
a tower of silence
and the high priestess accustomed to blood rot
a car passes miles away            the priestess stares on
as the businessmen fall into predestination
their bucket list leading to the vagrant’s cabin
                                           enveloped in the darkness
bloomed crimson with the bleeding of lantern light
in the swamp nearby                      the farmer’s fear ripens
and breathing in the sky the martyr speaks of return
scribed in stone by the historian to persevere as material
and it is in name of the greatest insurgents we now deem tradition
the psychoanalyst will tilt his chair and make an induction
the fractured consciousness was once divine
or perhaps the ancient desire for the idol
was far too libidinal                     an excess        (marked)
for the chaining of the insurgent to the gates
                              of a city                           breathing
       in the wake of poets
imprisoned in their predestination
the blacksmiths shall die blacksmiths
and the merchants shall birth merchants
that’s the greatest allure of becoming a bandit
during the dark hours                that abysmal volatile
the trespasser jumps a fence                  in the blink of an eye
becomes the pornographer of this predicament
a shadow play produced at the gates of a city
                                             breathing
                                in the wake of madness
the only true heir to the divine
through the psychotic’s binocular هـ
we spoke divinity                          the idol
no trespasser had snatched from the maw
a cave
              where Rostam slew the white deev
                           infinite in its capacity for madness
speaks louder than any thought that can penetrate rock
when the cavemen painted deer on these walls
they were pushing towards something unyielding
                                                            still unyielding
the psychotic assures we should pay no mind
generations wasted on mystery of death
when one does not yet know
how to hold the dagger
at the neck       of a city
that screams
and screams
and screams

Muse-hand tickle

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somehow fear can touch me
like a curtain that passes through the actor
mirrors the theater for the audience

somehow my thoughts have become tangible
that bright red, bee striped in shades of opiates
where I’ll flee but won’t come back from for a summer

the newspapers know my predisposition
but they sell me my fix anyway
if not THE consumer then…
an alternate consumer
hyphenated products

the finger,
theorized in the magnetic centre of my forehead
the finger probing into my mind until it furls
touching skin

the finger
summons what I’ve lost

Appears in this issue
Khashayar “Kess” Mohammadi (They/Them) are winner of the 2021 Vallum Poetry Prize.

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