Momtaza Mehri

Momtaza Mehri

Diminishment At the End of Line 7

Everyone was sinfully boring and vowed to keep it that way.
Everyone else was the problem, as they always are
When you’re hurting and aflutter with misplaced pride.
We were exhausted with ourselves and unable to do anything about it.
Our lips wet with Orangina and borrowed truisms.
We bled indifference.
Our friends were the gravediggers of our curiosity.
Our enemies were just like us.
Part of the fun was pretending we weren’t so similar,
So joined at the slinking hips. Like mermaids disavowing their new, trembling legs,
We shuffled past each other, avoiding our reflections in puddles. 
Standing on opposite sides of the same gum-ravaged platform.
Going our separate ways, in the same direction.
Villejuif–Louis Aragon. I got off, my boots as drenched as my heart, 
Bought a tube of toothpaste from the beauty supply nestled inside the station,
Dodging the pouty smirks of bewigged mannequins. 
I imagined a synthetic waterfall touching my shoulders.
Shrugged off the devastation of this image.
No one I loved knew where I was, and no one was coming to save me.
I pocketed my life yet unlived, a train ticket with a fixed cost but indeterminate reach.
This knowledge swelled in me. An irresistible scab.
The more I picked at it, the more I marveled at my own capacity for regeneration. 

Aragon’s lower lip. A split fruit. Aged 20, in a photograph my mind strays,
Strains towards, pulled from a penultimate collection. A New Romantic pin-up
Who’d somehow sleepwalked his way back into Nazi-occupied Paris.
His eyes drooping like a fox cornered by starved dogs,
Receiving death as one does a final judgment.
The only way to look at Man is as the victim of his mirrors.
You can’t ignore the radiator scalding your back.
What remains after the hallucinatory thrill of name-dropping?
The poet chases the sickness he laments. Each and every one.
The sky, the blue scythe, the trickling afternoon.
Granada, his swelter in the night, a hitched breath, the fall before the fall.

The red inversion of his hometown.
He remembers what wasn’t his to forget.
You can die where you were born and still be an exile.
Waiting in another port of mirrors, I am not there, but here,
In a city which always delivers me back to myself, shorn and unsteady,
reading from its plaques, touching its fading lines.
To forgive one another, something in us must die on these tracks.

MOMTAZA MEHRI is a poet and independent researcher working across criticism, translation, anti-disciplinary research practices, education, and radio. She is a former Young People’s Poet Laureate for London and Frontier-Antioch Fellow at Antioch University (Los Angeles).