Dedamet. I saw you, after the first flush of blooms.
I was picking through the ruins for my roots but you weren’t there.
Must I make an agreement with the living?
I cut the spike.
I surrendered to your dormancy.
Later, I cooed at the new growing from the old.
I kissed each bud as they swelled and broke, one at a time, to reveal the private ledger of your birth.
Without documentation. Without the truckloads of gravel between us, pinning our bodies in place.
When white flowers unfurled again, I stayed on the threshold of memory.
I didn’t have to give up anything. Not my pursuit of facts. Not my wildness.
I let the unexpected take shape: a mirror-image symmetry betraying your face.
What can I learn from your living? Your vagaries and blossoms?
I reach for you, madare madar bozorgam. Toward a past swallowed by stone. Unmapped yet in the earth. The orchid, my promise to care for that which animates us both.
I promise to wrest you from the hands of those who would rewrite your life. No. No. I promise:
I promise touch. I promise my voice. I promise a willingness to dream.
I promise your face hewn into lost history.
Copyright © 2023 by Tala Khanmalek. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.