Family of Scatterable Mines

Suitcases of dried limes, dried figs, pomegranate paste,
parsley laid in the sun, burnt honey, sugar cubes hardened
on a baking sheet. Suitcases of practical underwear,
hand-washed, dried on a door handle, stuffed into boxes
from Bazaar-e Vakeel, making use of the smallest spaces,
an Arcoroc tea glass. One carries laminated prayers
for safe travel. I stand still when she smokes
esfand and fans away an evil eye. And when she asks
does this mean he will die? I say yes
without worrying it will break her. Suitcases
of fruit knives, of embossed boxes
with gold coins inside, the gaudiest earrings
brought for me, yellow, loud as these big women rolling meatballs
on the kitchen floor, lifting lit coals
with their fingers onto a head of tobacco.
Shisha comes from shisheh, which means glass.
Jigaram, they call me, which means my liver.
Suitcases they unpack and repack
over Iranian radio, between calls passing gossip,
the report on the brother’s liver: it’s failing, and he
doesn’t want the sisters around because they will pray
and cry over him like he’s already dead. Sisters unfurl
black shawls from suitcases to drape over their heads.
I carry trays of dates before the men, offer little
square napkins, thank their condolences, hold the matriarchs
while they rock. I answered yes when one asked,
does that mean he’s going to die?

— Solmaz Sharif

American poet Solmaz Sharif was born in Istanbul to Iranian parents. She holds degrees from UC Berkeley and New York University. Family of Scatterable Mines takes its title from U.S. military systems for mine warfare.

[Research note: Solmaz Sharif, LOOK (Minneapolis: Gray Wolf Press, 2016): 38]