Poem of the Week | August 02, 2021

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Torque” by Temperance Aghamohammadi!

Temperance Aghamohammadi is an Iranian-American poet, essayist, and occasional psychic from Connecticut. He splits his time between his rural hometown and Baltimore where he is pursuing his undergraduate degree in writing and anthropology. His work has appeared in Ligeia and Bear Review.



I did not speak my language. I let it change me.
Something pushed me and I kept on spinning.
Throat bored its corridor of bone. Craved water

and reached for sky, thinking lapis meant liquid,
thinking clouds meant craters. Drought drew
me a mouth, thirst taught me speech. Had hardly

a breath before the tempest tossed me. Landed
somewhere in the oblivion of a nightingale’s
shadow. Feathers onyx shone. Beak worm

dropped. Learned my name in flight. Men drew
a line around it, called it ours, called it country.
Only so many words before a bird plummets.

Stepped over a rock-studded scar in the ground
at the brambled margins of forest. They called
this border. How it changed me. Said Siyâvash

and watched the land revolt, the mountains on
fire, the dead wedging out of the soil. Walked
through it and nothing of me burned, flames

red spun sugar, innocent. Dared shabrang,
and the night dropped down. Did not find
anyone I knew in the silent, sepulchred hills.

All my dead died before I was born, now salt
pillars coruscated in deserts lifetimes away,
moon blue-glossing their shape. They called this

history. They called this a good place to bomb.
I did not know these syllables. In my dream,
my tongue fossilized from loneliness. I planted it

between pomegranate trees and a lockbox of stars.
Sutured together a petalled prosthesis from dahlias
bending from the garden’s bouquets. Bloomed mersi,

and begged for it.


Author’s Note

“Torque” is a personal thesis of sorts. It is a protest poem against those who would have me conform to their desires and a spell for revival. Growing up I never learned how to speak or read Farsi. Sometimes it feels as if my tongue is trying to say something in a language I don’t know. Most of the time, it feels like my tongue is trying to speak a language between two languages: one that I know and one that I don’t. It’s that in-between language, the language that does not quite exist, that I’ve found my strength in. When I read this poem, I speak it with all my family, all my ancestors, and all my loved ones in my voice.