i can’t remember anything from the moment
i was born until the moment they died. it’s as if
i never really existed more than some creature left
indefinitely by the roadside until boyhood until
they died. so how can i
not write love poem after love poem to the people
i remember and to the people
i don’t? there are no heroes in my poems,
but if my love poems were to have heroes at all, i’d write
instead to the garden snail i once poked and prodded
in my box, whose body, glistening, had once
intensely entwined itself with another’s. as a boy,
i could not have known or believed
in this long and dangerous love-making,
in the fleshing of one thing to another, or
in the death of anything, of this snail, who,
in a blink, disappeared
into the blackness of a tire’s tread and whose slime,
in each slow orbit, made a trail for me to follow.
when i was a boy i looked at beautiful things as
if they were only beautiful
in the moment of my looking. this is why
i couldn’t believe in them. i was like a small scared god
in this way, burst into existence, imprisoned
in a warm and good grief and gladdened by
it. i cannot be the hero of my own love poems.
i live the way this animal died
a tiny, rapturous ocean stamped relentlessly
into its only meaning under the stars.
Darius Atefat-Peckham is an Iranian-American poet and essayist. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Texas Review, Zone 3, Nimrod, Brevity, Crab Orchard 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.