National Poetry Month Day 24: Aria Aber

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                                                    Operation Cyclone, Years Later

              For all I know, God could be,
              after all, favoring a mountain
              boy brown with dust, his brow
              calloused from the memory of men
              he’s stoned to death, pissed
              on the corpse of. He is a student.
              He has seen, so has been
              ruined; each eyeball astonished
              with what has shot through
              its pupil: a body will morph, in fall,
              into its surrounding—even dam. Even
              stone. We are what we are taught,
              yes, but also what we
              hope for. I hope for more than a war
              that whittles us to chameleons
              or refrigerated paper tags
              hanging from ankles. It is so certain,
              where we’ll end, yet arbitrary
              are the words determining the fate
              of our lives; a name, too, is a gene
              and may flourish or impugn
              the chromosome. Students hope
              to be cradled by mothers—hope for lunch,
              an hour to play ball. Students
              rock back and forth, warmed by the water
              of prophecy. A lie, if repeated
              ad nauseam, eventually becomes
              a prayer. And a cyclone is not a cyclops
              although it too has an eye—
              it can see. But would it testify?
              If the myths are right, the student gathers,
              then science is right, and the god particle
              isn’t, in the end, meant to be
              kind to us. Still, the student imagines God
              as moving, colorful shapes. He hums
              before pulling the firing pin,
              singing I am a student,
              I am a student, I am a student
              of God, and he is right, for that
              he is, and the rotten field we have scythed
              of this country is his school.


Aria Aber was raised in Germany, where she was born to Afghan refugees. Her debut book Hard Damage won the 2018 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and will be published in September 2019. Her poems are forthcoming or have appeared in the New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Narrative, POETRY, Wasafiri, and others. She currently serves as the 2018-2019 Ron Wallace Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. More from this author →