“Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been,” poem by Persis M. Karim

Some have stamps in their passports, emblems of official entry.
But the places charted
on this invisible map

are etched softly
in the curve of my spine.

Some women go deaf with the sound of children crying and weep
at the thought of more
togetherness. And I keep looking

for a way to belong.

When you have traveled far
you begin to long for the particular thing:
the sweet mustiness of a childhood room,
the mix of cumin and freshly chopped parsley, the dull, but knowable color
found in the joining
of four walls.

Conversations about children and debts
have detoured this longing.
Still, I want to speak names
of places with worn roads and blue-domed mosques: Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan–

places I want to say I’ve been.

I keep the box of inlaid enamel and wood– its pattern of irregular triangles and stars, the lid that fits a little too tightly– purchased at a crowded bazaar.

I carry it with me, like a passport not from this place
where I was born,
but from the other

I think I have been.