Sweater

by Niku Rice

 

I wear your sweater often now, unwashed

with silver hair still clinging like tinsel,

treating it like some holy thing in a way

you would have hated given any choice

in the matter, but you’ve been swept up,

a leaf in the wind with no say in the final

song being the birthday song in Farsi

on an iPhone, or the last word being

my name for you calling back in free fall,

with your hands suddenly cold and your breath

too calm for this world full of so much living,

you land unseen in a pile of other

people’s memories of who you were, as

a child with a string of siblings beneath

you, as a young man in sharp uniform,

as husband to a European bride

who would care for you the rest of your days

until you wondered where her husband was

and hoped he would be back soon to get her.

 

I wear this sweater and reach inside its

pockets, half expecting to find a pack

of cigarettes, a lighter, a tissue,

and find nothing but my own lint as I wear

your sweater in your chair on the deck

trying to see palms trees as you would have,

through smoke, music waltzing through you,

sometimes through the lips you used to kiss

my children on top of their heads, inhaling

their laughter and letting it echo like

my voice, forever stuck in an empty

pool in Tehran, seeing the persimmons,

but unable to reach them without you.

Niku Rice was born in Iran, grew up in California, and now lives in the suburbs of Detroit with her family. She graduated from UC Davis and is currently a doula and childbirth educator.

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May 2019

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