The Negotiations

We rename ourselves
in Farsi class. Soldiers sit enrolled among us—a few weeks in,
uniforms started to appear in our doorway.

Ostaad lets me use my given first name and looks
at the desk behind me. The guy’s wearing his army print today,
and he tells Ostaad what Persian name he wants—explaining

he thinks the name means, God of War. The first day of class,
I saw these army men in the room and tried to not wonder,
Why do the men want Persian—in which situation

do these soldiers imagine speaking the language? Listen,
NPR filled my kitchen this morning with negotiations
and nuclear conjecture:

******************What do the Iranians want?
******************Can we trust the Iranians—you know
******************we can’t read those people’s minds or know why
******************the Iranians want to talk to us.

I was just pouring creamer in my coffee. I was thinking,
Because of life under embargoes—grief spreads itself over
most families’ tables. To be hit by the escalating
price of chicken: damn it,
******************this is a reason.

When the radio voice started quoting Netanyahu,
I mouthed the words Fuck you—but felt so suddenly
scared—like an unfamiliar body herded into a flock—because one man speaks

about Iran and “wolves and sheep.” Today, I locked my front door.
Now, the God of War is sitting in the desk behind me,
and who in the hell am I

to say something? By the blackboard, Ostaad stands holding
a broken piece of chalk—his face like my father’s
face: this rectangle of sand and thinning sun. Our

professor asks the name of his next student while I imagine
the Iran-Iraq war again. I always tell myself, I’d slide a plate full
of bread, cheese, and mint into a deepest coat closet—if I had sons,

hidden, they’d live. I convince myself, but close my eyes
and see an entire generation escaping the house: waves of boys
running through the field. Ostaad turns back

to the board. Half-hiding behind our desks, we all study
his shoulders, the chalk buried in the red knit of his sweater.
Here, honestly, my own—only political beliefs:

******************some bodies are long hallways
******************of empty closets, only racks full
******************of a foreign shame. For so many reasons,
******************a body gives no one

a son. Here, in this classroom, the God of War is
honoring Farsi. Well, I hope the kid flunks
to be safe—to live. Only after escaping the field, can my father speak

his language. On this blackboard, all the syntax is walking back,
to my eyes, inverted. See, this soldier’s mom—does she understand
what trip her son studies for? At night, I lay down

with my conjecture. I stand at the front of the room, drawing
lines and boxes around the sentence—with the chalk
in my hand, I write, but feel how I’m unable to gasp

the meaning. Will the woman feel pride,
honor, if the soldier survives the next test, and maybe—maybe standing
in her kitchen, will she miss the son and cry into a striped dishcloth

softened by a million wash cycles? Will her loving
hand absentmindedly caress the fridge door’s
handle as she—in her mind—tries to plan a dinner

she will prepare when he comes back? Or if—
no. No real mother wants to see the field or how
war will diagram those bodies until

we can all read it:
******************how common
******************our human being is
******************when separated

into unpronounceable parts. The universal and foreign
senselessness of a sentence
broken into never reuniting clauses. That return—

her imagination just cannot volunteer.

*

Aliah Lavonne Tigh has authored a poetry thesis, A Body Fully, and last year, a paper examining the economic backdrop of revolution. She holds poetry and philosophy degrees from the University of Houston and began her MFA at the University of Indiana. Presently, she splits desk time between her second full-length poetry manuscript and research for a smaller historically-themed poetry project.

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