ISSUE TWELVE | SPRING 2019
When I step up to the detector, the agent asks me
where I am going as he retrieves my passport.
He looks up when I say Tehran,
extends his arm, his palm opens like a retractable claw,
little barbs against my chest, wait. And as the other
passengers stare at this public switch from unbothered to alarm,
he guides me away from them and to another, down corridors,
who pulls me into a nook somewhere in this airport,
and I think dignity when she digs both hands into my hair
and scales my scalp. From dignitatem, as in,
state of being worthy, as in, my being is something
worthy in this state, and I think collar when cold gloves
crawl down my neck. From kwel, as in, that
on which the head turns, as in, my head is turning,
my head is spinning to the guess of what flesh
will be unearthed next. And when she parts my thighs,
pries each leg apart from the other to scour the length
of each one, I think ankle, from ank or ang, as in, to bend,
and I remember that angosht is Farsi for finger,
and angolak, for fingering, and I flinch when she yells
to quit shaking, so I stand still like a stem
in a windless field, pretend my blood
is circulating smoothly, like water reaching my roots
neatly, my roots keeping me anchored so I don’t fall over,
and I imagine I am better planted by my own feet
than dangling thousands of feet in the air,
that turbulence makes my soles flick out their tongues,
desperate to lick the unmoving ground; and when she is done,
she tells me not to move. It will be a while
until my baggage is cleared. And I think baggage,
from the Farsi boqčeh, as in, a bundle,
as in the excess baggage we haul before we reach
our destinations, as in, how many times a day
does this agent utter baggage;
maybe a hundred times in the same snarl
that carries the history of our words in her mouth.
Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad’s poetry has appeared in Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Waxwing, among others. She is the poetry editor for Noble / Gas Qtrly, and is a Best of the Net, Pushchart Prize, and Best New Poets nominee. She lives in New York where she practices matrimonial law. She can be found on Twitter @mtorbat.
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