Self-Portrait as Camel Considering Plastic Surgery

after Greg Wrenn
When I am a teenager
my mother asks with tarragon
in her teeth if I want the operation.
The growth of myself is beyond
the ideal gradient of Swiss
ski slopes
the concave arc of my belly
when I blow all air out
just to look at my ribs.
Do you think I need it
I don’t ask and shovel yogurt
thinking of sand or snow
things that can be pushed,
brushed, melted, away.
My cousins went to Tehran
for the procedure, went home
slick as horses.
I longed for their bumps like reflections.
Cheaper there, my mother said.
But we’re not going back.
He makes borders
on my back with magic
marker, holding the blade
of my shoulder the way one holds
a piece of cut fruit.
The skin covers the things
we carry on our backs
water and fat and all that
we cannot place in memory.
It is different for each.
Here is where I hold
years 1978-1980
that we don’t discuss
still don’t know where Reza
was hiding, which refugee
camp he landed in, the bodies,
the cards he still gambled with.
If I am still
I can hear those years ringing.
I’m sure if he cuts me open
he will find all of my hair
wrapped around those years
like wheatgrass tied
for wishing.
We will never look
like horses
they will always
consider us camels.
Still I would like to know
the cost of cutting
this body
just to see
what I am holding.

Aria Curtis is an Iranian-American writer born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She received an MFA from Arizona State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New South, The Offing, The Southeast Review, The Shallow Ends, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on her first novel.