I remember when they cut your mother
and pulled your sister out, then you,
and how you cried and cried.
You never wanted to be here.
Right from the start.
I open Mama’s old prayer book
but the words billow like rain.
I wish you had loved
one thing enough to make you
want to stay; the orange sunsets,
your drooling dog, the fig tree
in the backyard, your twin sister’s mole,
Cheerios in cold milk.
Washing your body now,
twenty-four years of bones and flesh
laid out tall and stiff on this hard table,
is the cruelest task.
I stand here full of heartbeat.
Touching you is like dipping hands in a cold sea.
I soak a porous sponge in water scented
with rose, brush it against your neck,
along your arms, those long, thin legs.
There is a tampon still inside, the string
hanging out like the detonator of a bomb.
Darkness bends over itself to devour
what it will not hold--
the boy you loved watched you cry,
take a handful of pills,
and said nothing.
Sholeh Wolpé was born in Iran and lived in Trinidad and the UK before settling in the US. She is a poet, playwright and librettist. Her most recent book, Abacus of Loss: A Memoir in Verse (March 2022) is hailed by Ilya Kaminsky as a book “that created its own genre—a thrill of lyric combined with the narrative spell.”
Her literary work numbers over more than a dozen books, several plays, an oratorio/opera, and several multi-genre performance pieces. Sholeh’s translations of Attar and Forugh Farrokhzad have garnered awards and established her as a celebrated re-creator of Persian poetry into English.
Sholeh is the poetry editor of The Markaz Review and a writer-in-residence at University of California, Irvine. She divides her time between Los Angeles and Barcelona. For more information about her work visit her website: www.sholehwolpe.com