sporklet 13

Sara Afshar

A War in Persian

[Massachusetts, U. S. A., 1991]


Tell me the part about the boys.

How you all wore funny clothes.


Linger on their bodies a little longer,

shadows rigid like a forgotten baby’s dolly.


When you swung a long gun in the desert,

did you think of the pride of the Shah?


Tell me her name—



a beautiful sash the color of the Caspian,

big, big brown eyes.


Baba, say the part about the sea once more

then sing the song about the drops


that make up an ocean for me, for God, ayin ayin.

Wrapped in blankets,


in a home far from yours,

I dream of you, swimming.



[Qandahar, Afghanistan, 2012]


Deathstalkers crawl through a halo of bloody sand

clodded like piss on litter while he sits on the sofreh


spread in all directions. Coca-Cola pours diplomatically

among the mounds of hospitality, a coalition of guests,


he feasts with my own, feasting on my own. A ravaging

of secrets from tendon to bone, whispers buried


in god’s strongholds along decades of oil, exchanges

for slick piles of medals from a clawing machine.


A fine collection of decoration.

So sweet, this fine collection of scorpions


that comes creeping for spilled kin. Their tails point

like grins, indistinguishable


arid arachnids preparing the party

slaughter, each sorrowful morsel lifted


by a good and sovereign hand

surrendered to the dust, unwary.



[Massachusetts, U. S. A., 2014]


In our alphabet, the letter “t” has two eyes

and a smiling mouth. I taste the threat

tonguing a soldier’s teeth,

his fingers on the trigger inside me.

On my back, jendeh, comforting the ugly bird.

The enemy I love like a flickering lamp,

I pour the kerosene. While my hair

grows longer than the years, I busy myself

picking scorpions from corpses,

humming to a king carving his son’s eyes hollow.

It’s war, still. I descend from this,

sumac in the mortar, tea leaves in a glass, the broken

glass itself. I ask him to whisper teshne and watch

me thirst. His teeth flash into my accepting

throat, a vacuous climax flooding the smiling dead

stars in his eyes against my backbone

steeped in blood. Teshne-ye?



[Tehran, Iran, 1981]


To fight a war is like this:

A personreturns home,

sees the couch was moved.

A person lights a samovar,

makes a useless offering.

A person collects a person’s grief,

folds and sews into a person’s hems. 

In our language there is no word for he,

no words for she to whom he returns.

A person removes a person’sskirt:

Callow flesh.

A personis suspicious about the couch.

The color of the skirt on the floor is

limoo-e shekleh aftab e koodakee-esh.

A person owes a person nothing.

A person only wants patience.

A person knows this isn’t true.



[Massachusetts, U. S. A., 2002]


I was almost a child when he first wrote the letters

filled with resplendent greens and handsome flocks of tanks.


Oh, me and my head full of letters. Full of photos of peacocks

with pockets of ammo. Full of oh, war again


just like my baba sang, sleeping with explosions, eyes full of sand.

Someone should be watching out— who’s waiting outside


the mosque, oh, who’s in the van?  I learned to wait

on all fours, taking punishment from the punished,


eating pomegranate from his palm.

He said he never meant to hurt me,


locked in scrambled peaks, lashed like a camel,

luckless finger grazing a deathspring.


Me, such a good girl waiting, waiting. Calm doesn’t come

but, oh, I am loved to ribbons.

Sara Afshar is an MFA candidate at the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan. Previously, she worked as an immigration attorney. Her work has appeared in Slice, McSweeney's, Another Chicago Magazine and has been installed in Boston City Hall.