Back to Issue Forty-Five

The Return



Tehran, Iran

I ask my father if I am covering my hair for god
or for men, and he says, Government,
which feels like he is saying both.

The plane moves between thresholds—
Gazed upon and compelled. Ruled and regulated.
For months now I have bled, lost an egg,

and I must confess I still do not feel grown.
I try to render each strand of myself invisible.
In the airport, my aunties giggle at my caution.

No one around seems frightened by the guards.
Men here are the same as everywhere. The stakes, too.
That night I dream I am a child again, and genderless,

or at least innocent. Or maybe they are the same thing.
My father holds me in the sea and I laugh
as each wave laps against my back. The nape

of my neck is bare. My mother stands on the sand.
Her long black overcoat seems to grow behind her,
snaking against the horizon.


The Dream



Apples hang in the garden like fate
bruised by lies. There is a heaven only the good
can reach. What sounds beyond possibility often is.
Darkness leaks. The contract of hard work is not
enough. Fathers walk through the garden, plucking
fruit for their children. Their children are
greedy, even if they do not know it.
How can they not be, with all that was promised?
I open my mouth. Instead of a scream, a hundred
jasmine petals take wing. My father floats on them to a
kingdom where he is king. There are no subjects, only fruit.
Lemons he can send to me when I am sick. Plums for digestion.
My mother ripples into view, birthing me. I feel her
neck crane to look at me before I am
out. I feel her heart sink when I am
pronounced a girl. Feel the suffering, however
quiet, that is to come. I am born again and again,
reincarnated to the same self, the same fate.
Snow is falling. The cycle of water means it will fall again.
Tomorrow, perhaps. When I wake up,
urging myself to remember this: my father a king, my mother anew.
Visiting the possibilities of their lives,
wondering who they might be. I hear a whisper:
xiào xīn. Have a small heart. There is too much to lose otherwise.
Yearning is dangerous. A small breeze turns into a great
zephyr: a door opens. Night pours out.

Saba Keramati is a Chinese-Iranian writer from California. She holds degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing from University of Michigan and UC Davis, where she was a Dean’s Graduate Fellow for Creative Arts. Her work appears or is forthcoming in AGNI, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Margins, and other publications. She is the poetry editor for Sundog Lit. For more, please visit or follow her on Twitter @sabzi_k.

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