Darius Atefat-Peckham

A Lifetime’s Worth of Love Poems (unfinished)
~for Isabella

Imagine a grease-slicked man
in a leather jacket and scarf leaning
awkwardly by the punch bowl:
“I find poetry to be very…
therapeutic,” he says.
Meaning: once I tried to write a poem
about a man I saw crumpled to the street
like a still-burning cigarette
old and retracted and irreversible
and instead described the ice-blue
of my father’s eyes beautiful
like nothing I’d ever seen before.
Imagine me
the only poet thus far writing
you love poems (I hope!
though I seriously doubt I’m the last)
in a leather jacket and scarf leaning
awkwardly by the punchbowl saying
absolutely nothing at all
because nothing I said
could be as important as

the first time I saw you

: :

I said nothing at all. You ask me why
and I tell you I was intimidated. Goddamn
why do I always seem like such a bitch?

Again, I’ve said what I haven’t meant
because listen: you didn’t. You were
full lips a-grimace, cold and cradled
and irritated as all hell. Wouldn’t
you be, I ask myself, if you crawled
all the way from a semi-perverted boy’s
dreams to this grimy dorm basement? All of them
arguing over who she eyed first or
for how long or for what reason? So I said
nothing. Meaning:
since we met, the only poems
I like anymore are the poems
I’ve never written. Meaning: I’ve dreamt
of beating a man senseless and awakened
joyful awakened answering your voice
awakened lost and searching and
assuring you you’re on the other side
of all this terribleness in my head. In fact
you’re on the other side of
everything in my head. The way leaves fall
from these broken, winter
trees like browning fruit lulled
to sleep in tongues of being grounded
not at all. The poets’ choir
is harmonic and grease-slicked and
disgustingly out of tune—I know it.
And in their poet’s garb (I among
them, their thinning hair and
leather jackets and blackening,
ripening tongues) the poets

sing of you

: :

the way all moms will with
their children’s first loves,
she is worried I’m becoming
too serious too fast. But I’ve learned
to never tell your love
about all the little things that make you
love them. The mole just beneath
your shoulder, just hazel. Ew! You mean the one
with the hair in it?
or the dark patch of skin
beneath your collarbone—the way your
smile tilts just a little (ova’ here!). Love that
my face is crooked. Just love that.
I tell you, would have never missed these
little love poems kept hostage just
within your body. Neruda, I remind you
wrote an entire book full of this kind
of longing. I guess, you say. Once again,
I don’t mean this. I assure my mother
I’ve learned to never tell
a lifetime’s worth of love poems.
She seems okay with this. What

I fear, my love: an editor.

: :

Fear the brights of a semi rushing
the dark and fear the man’s
breath outside Chicago airport like storm
who hauls his son into a minivan
the boy’s legs swinging useless as
wet gunpowder, or gunpowder
from his wheelchair towards
the ramp like a door wedge. Why
do they put storms in this life?
the boy asks
and his father answers I don’t know.
Good question.
Good question. What is a good love
poem besides a staggering? An eternal falling
end over beginning over end. There’s no
such thing as a lifetime’s worth
of anything. This to say I was feeling
lonely and the boy groaned something
of acceptance or gratitude and
they paused. Meaning:
I thought, for a moment, of you
and, for a moment, I swear to god,
they touched foreheads,
father and son, and I thought

they must not feel this cold at all.

: :

You tell me about how, in sleep, I fail
to hide so much of myself: I was like
you say (I flinch) getting up to blow
my nose and drink water. You woke up,
asked me if I was sick, and I said ‘No’ to make you
feel better. You were like, ‘I don’t want you to be
sick’ and then burst into tears.
We both laugh.
It’s funny, now, but it was cute in the moment, I swear.
Like all good love poems, I showed you
this before it was ready. I told you
I didn’t make this poem. You did.

I haven’t made many

: :

promises in my life that I’ve kept. But
so help me god if this poem isn’t
one of them. A wise poet once told me
that writing poetry is like shaping
marble in your garage. Every day,
you go in and hack away
at it. Some days you hack harder
than others. You work and
you work and you work until finally,
it’s finished. Then, it’s someone else’s.
In keeping with my belief
that poems are never really written to be kept,
this promise I’ll keep: when this poem is done
with me, when my shoulders are muscled
and I’m breathing like it’s below-zero
and it tastes like blood. Like a slackened
fishing line, I will bring myself
to the garage-door windows
and deliberate. I will

peel away the dusk

: :

Peel away the dusk.



Darius Atefat-Peckham is a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, MI, and an Iranian-American poet and essayist. At Interlochen, he serves on the editorial team for the literary magazines The Red Wheelbarrow and The Interlochen Review. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Texas Review, Brevity, Rattle, and elsewhere. Darius also has work forthcoming in the Other Voices International Project Anthology (Reelcontent), Iran Musings: Stories and Memories from the Iranian Diaspora, and the bilingual anthology Persian Sugar and English Tea, Vol. II.