Armen Davoudian is the author of Swan Song, which won the 2020 Frost
Place Chapbook Competition. His poems and translations from Persian have
appeared in AGNI, The Sewanee Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.
He grew up in Isfahan, Iran and is currently a PhD candidate in English at
The Palace of Forty Pillars
Isfahan is half the world
Twenty pillars drip into the pool
their likenesses, where the likeness of a boy
wavers among the clouds, eyeing the boy
who’s waiting for another. All is dual:
two rows of roses frame the pond, in twos
the swans glide, each on another’s breast, then fuse
in a headless embrace. All is dissolved:
the boy outside the water is no more
a boy inside the water—his no more
the face defaced by its own lines on shattered
waves overlapping like a rose, the tattered
pillars strewn like petals. All is halved,
severed, like home and school, like love and being
loved—the boy no more than a way of seeing.
Originally published by The Sewanee Review
Something There Is That Doesn’t Love
We’re in Deutsche camp,
which is a tasteless joke
my friend with the undercut
trolls out of history
like a limp goldfish pulled
out of its bowl. In fact
we’re in Middlebury, VT,
summer of ’14,
and I’ve vowed to unlearn English
for six weeks, so I can get
more Rilke and an A.
But mostly we play soccer,
shirtless against the shirts,
and afterwards we screw
as twenty-somethings do.
We even fall in love,
whispering in the dark
of the campus graveyard
under the sacred oath
of German 101:
—Ich liebe dich, mein Liebling!
—Und ich dich liebe auch!
Weekends we go to Ripton
to hike the Robert Frost
Yes, there’s a wood with a road
splitting in it, a pile
of timber forever rotting
with the burning of decay
(for the world will end in fire)
and last, the wall! Its faded
placard reads, Something
there is that doesn’t love.
all that is history.
Now I know lieben from leben,
but Rilke in German feels
like a fish out of water.
The president believes
good fences make good neighbors.
The roads remain divided.
Undercuts are in.
Something that doesn’t love
burns on the streets again.
Originally published by Shenandoah
I can see my mother, apron over her nightgown,
setting the table for breakfast, a stack of lavash
steaming at the center, honey and milk skin,
feta with fruit, chickpea-and-chicken hash
dusted with cinnamon. I can see my father,
already in his coveralls and cap,
filling a cup to the brim with hot tapwater
and emptying it into another cup
and emptying that cup into another
until all three are warmed for tea. I can hear
the kettle whistling and pull the covers tight
around my head, against the coming light,
for any moment now they will open the door
and lift the covers and find that I’m not there.
Originally published by Smartish Pace
Waking to your reflection on the pane
blurred already in the maple’s arms
I thought of Orpheus about to look
and Eurydice about to die again
and shut my eyes, letting the night fall back,
which brought me suddenly to the young boy
up early one fall morning long ago,
fumbling for his glasses while the world
seen dimly as through tears or through the window
of the airplane taking him from home that night
receded more the more he tried to look,
as he now vanishes the moment I
open my eyes and find your image too
fading away, the day about to break.
Originally published by AGNI
Coming Out of the Shower
I shut my eyes under the scalding stream
scrubbing off last
when suddenly I hear your voice again
as though it caught in the clogged drain
and was sent bubbling back up from the other
world where you’re not my
This time it’s really you. I’m really here.
I blink. We do not disappear.
Dad left, you say, to shower at the shop
so I don’t need to stop
just yet—and yet I do, unable to
resume old customs, unlike you.
In a one-bath four-person household, we
learned what we mustn’t
become, in time, so coolly intimate
with one another’s silhouette
behind the opaque frosted shower screen
that once more stands
us two. While at the mirror you apply
foundation and concealer, I
wash out my hair with argan oil shampoo,
which means I’ll smell
all day. Mama, I shout, I’m coming out,
and as you look away I knot
around me tight your lavender robe de chambre,
cinching my waist, and
out of the tub, taking care not to step
outside the cotton mat and drip
on the cracked floor you’ve polished with such zeal
we’re mirrored in each
Yet, you’d forgive the spillage, or forget.
What else will you love me despite?
Originally published by Literary Matters
27 Marjan Street
The rooms shrink down with each new coat of paint.
The house stays calm. The child inside the house
is also calm, face tucked into mother’s blouse,
but the rooms shrink down with each new coat of paint.
Though the house is gone, the walls will not relent.
No more a child, at every new impasse,
you shrink the rooms with coat on coat of paint
to a house inside that child inside that house.
Originally published by Bat City Review