The Patient Stone (and other poems)

The Patient Stone

The Wi-Fi is banned indefinitely. And so 
she wants to send the letter of her body 

home. Nastaliq shekasteh. Broken handwriting. 
She wants to join the protests, burn 

her hijab. I would forbid it if I could: her 
leaving me. I wish to be the patient stone. 

The patient stone listens. Absorbs 
the sorrows of those who confide 

in it. When two beings are inseparable, and 
is pronounced o. Layla o Majnun,
Gol o morg, Khosrow o Shirin, my Bibi
o her country. Séance of my ear harboring 

secrets, dribbling like a mouth 
at a fountain. Our voices cling to one another. 

Our eyes distend, bursting. As I wait 
to board my train, she asks how 

my Persian is doing as if it is a sick relative 
or a child in trouble at school. The man in me 

grovels his sorrows in the desert basin, 
his memory making mud from the dirt. 

Even I—Even I—Even I—I say and she listens, 
eyes downcast, waiting for her turn to speak.


There is a woman carved 
into helmet shell, now haunting 
the space just below my knuckle. 
Useless, I slip her in my pocket 
and take a watering can by its wing. 
I wear a new ring for every day of my life. 
I do this with most things, making them 
permanent. The face of a moon peaks 
out from beneath Isabella’s shirt-sleeve.
She holds her dress at either side. Is it 
raining there? Is there mud? Born 
from the soil, dusted clean, put to 
my lips. I plan to have many. They will know 
who I am, accrued across my fingers, 
hung down hollows of my neck, waiting to be 
lost back. How do I mean? I am not meant 
for this. I stand in the rain, dumfounded 
and searching, wiping myself from my eyes. 
I wait for the right conditions to put my self 
to practice. I am told to express myself 
this way, just nothing permanent, please. 
I am obsessed with myself. Like 
a planet, I long for something I can’t 
slip off at night and forget to wear 
in the morning. I want to make it all wuthering, 
whatever that means. I want to be clothed, fed, 
taken care of. The hands of my love. Tomatoes 
so sweet my eyes flutter and moan. 
The accidental salt of fingertips, like an ocean 
at my lips, teaching me something 
about worship. That question there, sealing me 
shut: if she was too good for this world, 
as they say, what does that make me, 
still standing here, gathering myself 
at the gate? 


                       ~for Tahereh—poet, activist, martyr

When the Eyes open, finally, 

they won’t yield

to touch. Like ice-

flowers reaching to catch the soil. To blossom, 

the mystics wrote, is to open 

her smile. A man sits, head

wrapped, holding conversation 

with a parking meter. A real poet haunts, her mouth 

full of white silk, singing quiet

Ta-das! to take our breath 

away. Ta meaning: so that, up to, until 

then, rather than—sometimes, even, 

when. Is translation the least we can offer? 

Is there even less? What remains 

down the well that terrify us 

so. That 

we offer pebble and coin 

to bury it. Some men learn 

to be ghosts before they ever

learn to die.


The needle occasionally punched through her finger and nail / so a smear of red remained on whatever she was making. She seemed to elongate as she worked, growing wide / as an ocean, big and tall as Paul Bunyan with his ax. Confidently and forever / the story of a wedding dress, The Boy’s / mother, the thousands upon thousands of pearls inlaid, glinting like eyes. How it came to life beneath her / fingers. To sew is to see stitched / to an end. He watched her rings, wishing he could wear them. Everything came from her, even The Boy, even her own name. A name she stitched / together from The Boy’s pronunciation / of the cardinal considering Him on the balcony as He sat in His high-chair one summer’s day. Birbie…Birbie…Bibi! He clapped at the bright winged / thing alighting on the railing, light as the feathers that made it. She dropped / the tool she’d been using to feed Him (startled the cardinal, who disappeared into the burning, unblinking eye above, making The Boy frown) and ran inside, yelling with elation to no one, to anyone / who would listen, He said His first word! He said His first / word, and His first word was / me! At the end of the night, she rested / her ruined, arthritic fingers against the table, her foot lingering at the pedal. Una corda / sostenuto / damper. The Boy watched—it was all He could do—her foot slowly rising / winged, letting go the sound.

I Am Not Disappearing

To be a Boy, there are rules. Chief 
among them is that I must not 
die, even when the words escape me 
like lightning bugs
dying in my jar, making their short lives
shorter. I must tell no one 
about the ghosts of them fluttering up against
the glass. Flickering gray 
then grayer. Must act as though they 
never happened, hold 
my hands cuffed as I wait in line
for security, surrendering my Real 
ID. A woman just ahead of me 
says to her child, over and over, 
her hand held tight to her ear 
like some body’s small chest:
I’m not disappearing. 
I’m not disappearing. She is 
saying. Is sung. My mother once
snuck her pet gerbil through 
like a fugitive tucked in a barrel,
a toilet paper roll squeezed between 
her legs. All that, just so the secret
body could travel a bit further 
and die, later and alone, taken
apart in the strong maw 
of her husband’s boyhood
pet. What can be
done? My father used to laugh 
until he cried. The dog was trained 
to keep out pests and she was 
old and blind and miserable, 
anyhow. It’s the natural order
of things. A story always comes
to mind, knocking like a chick 
to be let back in 
its shell, prodding the membrane 
of my eye: my mother 
once mourned. Now, I 
walk past every officer, the after-lives 
of wriggling animals tucked 
between my legs like a suspicious 
lotion or IM hip rod or family 
curse. I can never quite 
depart. I feel their evil 
eyes sown across my shoulders 
like wings, just like my grandma 
warned, their tired lids 
are shut. But I think it may be harder to admit 
that when the TSA agent doesn’t order me 
step aside, when I glide
through the gate—known 
traveler, transparent as Ghost—I miss 
those hands patting me down 
like earth. Halving me. Reminding me
that what the crow does 
on the side of the hot dirt road
is a kindness. To untie a body
from itself, a kindness. Assuring me
of my held breath. I’m there, 
in a body of delayed 
that hasn’t happened yet—reaching 
me in the welling look 
of people I long
ago survived. 


  • Darius Atefat-Peckham is the author of the chapbook How Many Love Poems (Seven Kitchens Press, 2021) and editor of his mother’s, Susan Atefat-Peckham’s, posthumous collection Deep Are These Distances Between Us (CavanKerry Press, 2023). His work has recently appeared in Poetry Magazine, Poem-a-Day, Shenandoah, Rattle, The Journal, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. Atefat-Peckham grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and currently studies English and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard.

  • Still images from Drunken Angel (醉いどれ天使, Yoidore Tenshi), a 1948 film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is notable for being the first of sixteen film collaborations between director Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune.