Post-Loss Checklist by Darius Atefat-Peckham


Have I done all that I’m
supposed to? I wear clean
socks. I wash
my hands and try
to pray. khak bar saram. I say
I should die, I should have
dirt on my head. I wear a slight
smile. I sit high up
in the breeze, my beloved’s
head on my shoulder. I become
small again, tapping my fingers
 along empty clothes
wavering on clothes-lines.
Along headstones
to wake the dead. They hear
I feel them yawn
and stretch like
trees all around me.



Have I done all that I’m
supposed to? The cardinals
are visiting today. We
make appointments. I try to make
them laugh by telling
the joke I can’t remember.
Their beaks open and close
like sighing. Like me,
they prefer some-
body older. My Papa
asks, Dada, who is
your best friend? and
they tap their heads. I ask
if there are rules to this. God,
they answer out from
my mouth. And he is here,
they say, knocking loudly
on their small skulls.  



Bibi, watch! I’ll skip
the number you hate
the way you might
have done. If you spoke
this way. Somebody like you
whispering commands
in your ear Begu, speak this:
Begu dooset daram.
Begu delam berat
tang shodeh. Begu
khodahafez. So that
I command the voice
on the other end of the line:
Say I love you. Say I miss
you. Say goodbye.



Forgive me, I had my first dreaming
a while back. We sat together
in a car and spoke
of all I can’t remember.
Forgive me, when I look
at you, my smile often
wavers, looks a-grimace. I have
no idea who I am trying
to be. But I think you know
I don’t make a good mouth-
piece. I grow my hair, I wear
my clothes and stay clean.
Just another gentle curve
of body, just another
funny face. And I think
I remember now: my mouth
opened like sighing, my cheek
rested in the gentle curve
of your shoulder. I lost myself
to waking. I am post-
loss. I am losing.



I have gone. They are supposed to
be taking me back
like a sculptor to an unfinished
stone. They are still
unfinished, un-
raveling. Everything is
always. The thing is,
I keep getting my name
wrong. My fingers like anvils
now, tired of my name.
Darrish, Darroosh, Darryoos
Joon. I’ve written it
so many times it’s impossible
to know. I’ve never known
how to address myself.
How to command
someone to speak. Just dooset
daram, I love you and khodahafez,
goodbye. I am going
to the grave-sites. In the winter
months, when the flowers are frost-
bit and dying, I go
like this: one hand tapping
the stone, one hand above
my head, pouring the earth.



Darius Atefat-Peckham is an Iranian-American poet and essayist. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poem-a-Day, The Georgia Review, Indiana Review, Barrow Street, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Journal, and many others. He’s also been included in many anthologies, including My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora (University of Texas Press). In 2018, he was selected by the Library of Congress as a National Student Poet, and traveled the Midwest in this capacity to teach Middle school and High school-aged students about the concurrence of grief and joy in literature. Atefat-Peckham is the author of the chapbook How Many Love Poems (Seven Kitchens Press). He grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and currently studies English and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard College.