Your knuckles are furred like my father’s, / balling his socks one inside the other / and tossing them on the bed.
I teach Robert Lowell to undergraduates at an elite institution.
My colleagues study poverty, whiteness,
of language to signify, and the moral imperative of art.
You pinch your thumb and index finger
into the obscene gesture for peace
while the endowed lecture on the figure of the otter in modern British poetry
continues. Your face is suitably hairy
and preoccupied, your hand
placed absurdly high on your thigh.
The words are dull and fashionable, positionality,
Englishness, paradigm shift, other-ness—
the wordplay cheap and without tact.
You are taking dutiful notes on your electronic notebook.
Ambiguity, imperial construct, republican feminism.
Your knuckles are furred like my father’s,
balling his socks one inside the other
and tossing them on the bed
for my mother to collect later.
I believe in nothing more than in love.
I study English poetry
because Persian would have been too obvious.
You land here packed for weeks—your maddening knack
for making all trips feel like going back.
We’re already in each other’s past,
our small talk overcast
in the haze of a half-forgotten language.
After LA, you tell me with a hug,
Berkeley, even smothered in thick fog,
is just like Isfahan, where you came of age.
Remember Isfahan, where you came of age
but I won’t? For you, I never will. We reach
around your baggage for a hug, again,
and look past one another’s shoulders where
a boy dips guilty hands in your long hair,
making it braid, making it like a chain.