by Aria Aber
Again, I lay at God’s feet like a heap
of tropical wilt. Begged a beginning, or a spectacular
end. I wanted to be a gnat-thin thing or at least
not Muslim: God came as a forest,
pregnant with steel, growing her droning fury—
between my eyebrows
an apology itched, still and absolute.
I shucked and spat into an ashtray
my language. Was all I touched a deity?
Khodaye ab, god of water. Then, my own
hushed sex: Khodaye Kus. God quite the dealmaker,
chopped all my copper hair and gave me
knotted roots, a twig. Bugs suffused and were
havocked in my mouth. It didn’t matter whether
I inhabited a human or a tree: I remained
a glob of impermanence. Plenty of me
was heavy inside the earth. And parts of me
were not at all: under such strain,
a brain remembers its first music—
Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, I sang, and its pulse
enclaved me like my first big fiction,
all those finches I had drowned in the river––
Bismillah, bismillah, bismillah,
I thought, and God thrust down my throat
her jittering hand, until my sins came forth
as guppies in an avalanche of bile.
I was unspectacular as fish scales
dropped on a roadside. As morning trickled
the canopy, my metallic nudity was washed
with cold. Beads of aloe and mint
furled from my skin. I stared down
at this thing I was becoming
and eventually, God begot me with her saltless
strings. All this time it had been wrong,
the way I was beseeching––
to want the universe to pity me.
Aria Aber was raised in Germany, where she was born to Afghan refugees. Her debut book HARD DAMAGE won the 2018 Praire Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and will be published in September 2019. Her poems are forthcoming or have appeared in The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Narrative, POETRY Magazine, and elsewhere.