The Arches of Isfahan
When we recited poetry in Isfahan,
the Bridge of Thirty-Three Arcs
stretched to embrace the firmament.
The songs you brought to life
were meteorites, detonating
in the sockets of our eyes.
If time had been reversed,
the poet’s tomb would have
been our pilgrimage.
Water would have flowed
from the Ziandeh’s shores,
and every point on the bridge
would have punctured
the sky’s demand
for release from the earth.
But time had no time—
and eternity no purpose—
for our aimless wandering.
So I took the book
you left for me,
without saying goodbye.
Damascus in the Month of Ramadan
There is no straight man in the world
said starry eyed Rima, as we returned
from the Damascus book fair where,
for the hundredth time, I fell in love.
No straight man in the world—
only cheaters, pimps, addicts, and bores.
Rima passed her days on the rooftop
watching the world unfurl,
watching her rivals fall in love.
She once had a man more beautiful
than herself, she said.
She didn’t want children
Just a touch, a hand
Someone to grant release from
her celestial observatory,
someone to aim arrows at her stars.
Damascus in the month of Ramadan
is an affliction that multiplies hourly
the hunger inside, the longing to be touched,
until roof banging at dawn brings prayer.
I thought I had bested Rima’s forecasts.
Until the plane landed and I tried
to remember the name of the book fair man
whose smile had stolen my heart.
His syllables merged with others’ words.
His nomadic soul hitched onto Rima’s stars.
Intimating Immortality at Şəhidlər Xiyabanı, Baku
I would like to be a snail,
to have no consciousness
to see the world
pass me by as a slimy mass,
without requiring an answer.
I would like to surrender accountability
I would like just to see,
to be free from immortality
and other foreign projections on my body.
Maybe I would breathe every now and then,
but mainly I would stare
at humans’ madness and love of bloodshed.
I would observe the hustle of the world
from inside my snail shell,
my tentacles alert.
My slime would keep me warm
as I heard cosmic symphonies.
If I left any trace behind, it would be
my gold shimmering excrement
that paints the pavements iridescent
beneath the trampling of pilgrims’ feet.
No one would see the glorious mutations
of ebony into amber and aqueous green.
I would be miraculously invisible.
No one would demand
to know my reasons, motives, or needs.
It would be enough
just to linger and to be.
But the shell is fragile.
Its case is too small for me.
Waiting for Revelation in Derbent’s Nizamiyya Mosque
Arabesques unfurl like vines
on the walls of the Juma masjid.
Derbent preceded the Sasanians.
The Caspian shores houses Gog and Magog.
Even Alexander the Great
could not destroy its white walls.
Paler than the millk of Nushirvan’s mother,
Derbent is dense with buried pasts.
I dream of the days
when your walls were new,
when your rugs unrolled
to pilgrims, emissaries, kings,
when this mosque
was at the center of the world.
The loudspeaker blared:
God is everywhere.
A toddler rose to the podium,
reciting the Quran.
I bowed down,
for the revelation
that never comes.
Kissing in Paris
We met in Paris.
This is true.
We met in Paris
but not like lovers do.
We met online before we kissed.
We weighed each other’s
merits on a scale.
We applied calculus.
And then we met in Paris.
And then we kissed.
We didn’t kiss
like lovers do
on the Paris pavement
near the Eiffel tower
or on the banks of the Seine
beneath Notre Dame.
Your fingers did not graze my hair.
We didn’t hold hands.
Instead we kissed
under the florescent glare
of the hotel where we stayed
in separate rooms.
We kissed deliberately,
not by accident.
We kissed, burdened
with debits and debts.
We kissed, tripping
over past lovers’ names.
We kissed, seeking amnesia,
clinging to the past.
We kissed, divulging our souls,
and holding back.
We kissed without following a script.
We kissed, heavy with experience.
We kissed, rebelling against
the Great Romance.
We kissed without music.
And when your friends asked you
how we met, you said simply: