Vulnerability Study by Ashley Hajimirsadeghi

Tattoos in misspelled Farsi—father is a stranger,
farther is reality. In an perfect world, Farsi
is taught in school, disconnect is nonexistent.
In this world I am not six years old, explaining meteors
and dwarf stars and heat death to a man who
I thought knew it all.

Frantic rushed lullabies, thick maple syrup, running down
my mother’s chin. She cradles me, Baba is upset.
Sloshy, sugary sweetness—it’s poisoning me, drowning me
in sodium nitrate, slowly severing my oxygen, an afterimage,
an aftereffect, of traditional Iran meeting
contemporary America.

Sometimes, I am asked if I want to return home, if a country
I’ve only seen in photographs and memoirs and father’s
ramblings is mine.

I’m still searching for reasons to call it mine, justify
the label Iranian-American.

Baltimore is 187.7 miles from New York City
and 6204.4 miles from Qazvin.

Qazvin is too far to visit when grandmother, a serene
woman in sepia photographs, dies. I dream of
lace-covered hands, whispers of my granddaughter,
my granddaughter! echoing across the Atlantic.

New York is too far for father’s limping heart. I must
make do with Iranian restaurants blocks away, find solace
in stench of hookah bars. No one will have my father’s
ghormeh sabzi. It’s a stranger’s family recipe,
not ours—there’s a difference.

There will always be a difference.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a freshman at the Fashion Institute of Technology. tributaries, her first collection, was published in 2018. She is the winner of 22 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for poetry, including a Gold National Medal and Silver National Medal, and was selected as one of six students to receive the prestigious Civic Expression Award.


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