Corneas: A Lord Sort, by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

We do not say okay in Farsi, or fine or yes
to the request of a loved one; we say chashm,
so when Maman says, can you pick up parsley
and cilantro for the stew, I say chashm;
when my aunt says try these pastries,
please, they are for you, I don’t like pistachios
but I reach for the tray, chashm; dress warmly
and crack the cardamom and do well in school,
chashm; call me when you leave and when you arrive
and when you stay and call me for no reason, chashm;
and even when my unspoken response is no,
not now, later, my affections for the inquirer
press my tongue into this one syllable, this one word,
a polite confirmation, this one word that is yes,
I will oblige without challenge, this one word
that sounds like the Farsi word for eye, cheshm;
this one time while visiting Isfahan, I asked
my grandmother for sour cherries, the dried ones
rolled in salt and she said nothing, but she raised
her right hand and cupped her eye before
she brought a bowl full of them to me;
so back on Fourteenth Street, it is this sentiment
I search for when he asks if we can walk down
to the spot near the park, but what do I say to him,
he who speaks no Farsi, how do I say okay, fine, or yes,
and fill just one of these words with the adoration
I hold for the heart that utters this simple request,
how do I say one word and mean to tell him,
of course, yes, we can walk down to the spot near the park,
whatever you ask for, I pledge, I value above all else,
more than the millions of nerve cells converting light
into impulses, more than the optic nerve transmitting
them to produce the images; would it make any sense,
and here I speak directly to you—if I raised a gloved palm
to my face in reply, would you know that I cherish your desires
more than anything, more than the sight made by this eye

***

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad is the daughter of Irooni immigrants, a worshipper of space and hyacinths, and an Oscar the Grouch apologist. Her 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.

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