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The Only Safe Way to Hold a Blade Is to Point It at Someone Else

I still remember my first jashan: the priests, shrouding half the floor in the white linen sofreh their own faces & bodies hidden by billowing jamas. The topi that clung soft to my skull was the first velvet I touched. I cradled it in my palms like a dead crow, passed my fingers back & forth on its body, watching the colors shift from the drab maroon of scabbed skin to the bright blood of a fresh wound. As the priest droned on in the soft, somnolent language of God, the smoke & scent of burning sandalwood filled the room & I fell asleep. There’s no point to God if you don’t know sorrow but there are as many reasons to pray as there are to grieve. I dreamt as I slept of my grandmother’s hands kneading through my thick, black hair & of a garden spilt with the light of two moons, both of which had my father’s face. We never stepped on the sofreh. When the ceremony ended, we knelt on its edge, whispered wishes to the flame. Grandpa took my hand in his, helped me sprinkle frankincense in the fire. It’s not the press of his palms against my knuckles I remember most, nor the halo of heat gilding my face like a ghost—it’s the helpless way the smoke cleared, how it vanished in the vents like I knew I would one day. I touched the remains of flame to my forehead. The distinction between ash & soot is between being burnt to a cinder & burnt to a crisp. In other words, just words. But the difference between a good daena & bad is that when a sinner attempts to cross the Chinvat, the Bridge to Paradise turns thin & sharp as a sword.


ARMAN AVASIA is a poet living in Austin, Texas. He lives with his dog Whippet, who is not a whippet.


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