here’s a love poem to the garden snail

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

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.