Here’s a Love Poem Sleeping


together in bed, thinking about how much I

love your tired voice, tired you,

I call it, love

the tired

curve of your back, your tired

breathing, love it when you roll your r’s and scrunch

your nose, speak the ghost of your Spanish

better than the Farsi I’m trying to learn


now. How sometimes, all these years

later, you ask if I’m mad that you’re sleeping. You’re doing it


again now, faced toward me, worried

and awake: are you mad at me for sleeping? I am


remembering my family

in Iran, how they call you my fiancé. Do you remember

the smirk in their voices as I searched

my Google Translate app for

something they might understand: khoshgelam, zendegiam,

moosham, ham-dam

my beautiful, my life, my mouse, my same

breath. My Bibi telling me

which photos of you I could send

to my ammeh on her Whatsapp—do you have any

without her shoulders? Without her stomach? Without her

legs? How I searched for


a picture of you without

your body, of just

your face, and sent it away as they waxed and waned

with approval. She looks even a bit

Iranian in her face. Do you remember laughing when

I told you? You asking, then, if you had a face


like the moon. My Bibi laughing

at wedding bells, exclaiming

Another donkey joins the show! Do you remember

my night terrors? Or when I was even younger, before we ever

met, the smell of that principal’s office

as it got darker, how I’d pinch my eyes shut

for five seconds, ten, twenty and then open

thinking, like a magic trick,

of you, that you

might walk through those elementary school doors

to pick me up, spin me round, set me down

again. Do you

remember

my single father, limping in, alone

and just like a donkey, jaw clenched


forever, how I felt he must have been angry

with me as he explained how

the cop stopped him for swerving, asked him

to walk in a straight line. How, frustrated


by his once-shattered hip, he couldn’t—the lights

of oncoming traffic crashing


into his faltering back, the cop holding his flashlight

like a shotgun on his shoulder, saying

sir, we can do this all day. Remember how he measured

the distance of longing


the way ancient Persian astronomers measured the stars

with a device called the star-taker. Remember bodies

bent to their

instruments. My father’s

first bad marriage. What I came from. Remember

the woman behind the desk, looking at us with a little pity, with less

understanding, how we both walked away

from the school


in the dark. Remember hands. Remember the stars

all around you. Remember you, face toward


me, bodiless and shining in the dark, saying,

I don’t want

to sleep

if you’re not sleeping, too. How I close

my eyes to you like a man splashing

bits of the river against

his face.


 

DARIUS ATEFAT-PECKHAM’s work has appeared in Poem-a-Day, Indiana Review, Barrow Street, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Journal, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbook How Many Love Poems (Seven Kitchens Press, 2021) and his work has recently appeared in the anthology My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora (University of Texas Press, 2020). Atefat-Peckham grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and currently studies English and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard College.