An Insignificant Question


where are you from

so what, if I never saw you—
in the beginning, life was blind
what is that accent

my notion of style is
to be expelled with vogue eyebrows
while I pull taut around my lips a sotto voce

define sentimentality

four sparrows picking pebbles on snow-robed garbage
no, no—the burnt baby flickering on TV

who are your ancestors

a vase filled with grenade pins

when was the last time you cried

I saw a nondescript clay house
in Rogue One and wept for hours

do you remember the first time you cried

once, as a child, I climbed a hill
and arrived, I swear, inside you—everything
morphed red—but the Shah of afternoon disciplined me
by my sea-black mane—it was then that you happened

please describe exile in one sentence

I am a wife of fire

what do you know about fire

sometimes I awake marrowless, bone-hungry
and expose my clavicle—first bone to ossify—to the dirty light of the empire

have you ever been to Afghanistan

but let us not converse
about the obvious—

when did you learn English

still, I’m half-ashamed—
is it right to call me yours? I language
about our kinship

where are you from

I was outgassed, I was conditioned to orbit America
(for too long, my answer was a fiction)

what is beauty in your country

I check my eyeliner
in stranger’s cars
and barbarous bugs blink back at me
from the warp of wing mirrors
until I stab them

where are you from

(the sunburnt otherwhere
of my face
is yours)

Aria Aber was born to Afghan parents in Munster, Germany. Her work has appeared in Best British Poetry, Muzzle Magazine, Prelude, Reservoir Journal, decomP, and others. She has been awarded the New Writing Prize in Poetry from Wasafiri, and fellowships from Kundiman and Dickinson House. Currently, she is an MFA candidate in poetry at NYU, where she serves as a Writers in Public Schools fellow.