[Persian Letters], by Solmaz Sharif

Dear Aleph,

Like Ovid: I’ll have no last words.
This is what it means to die among barbarians. Bar bar bar
was how the Greeks heard our speech—
sheep, beasts—and so we became
barbarians. We make them reveal
the brutes they are, Aleph, by the things
we make them name. David,
they tell me, is the one
one should aspire to, but ever since
I first heard them say Philistine
I’ve known I am Goliath
if I am anything.

Drowsing over The Arabian Nights, by Thomas Kinsella

I nodded. The books agree,
one hopes for too much.
It is ridiculous.
We are elaborate beasts.

If we concur it is only
in our hunger: the soiled gullet.
And sleep’s airy nothing.
And the moist matter of lust

—if the whole waste of women
could be gathered like one pit
under swarming Man,
then all might act together.

And the agonies of death,
as we enter our endless nights
quickly, one by one, fire
darting up to the roots of our hair.