Baptism; Carpet; & Makeup Tutorial at Grey Gardens






for my father’s church my mother dresses my sister

and me in orange burned

one hundred times over prays


in Arabic rhythmic applies a steroid cream

to my small blistered crown all my hair

in her palm a loss

I follow her bismillahs swallowing


all her syllables



in Bible study     the teacher points


to a map with colors     torched


as the ones we wear

desert shades


something left

in the sun you girls

he says pulling apart

a tangerine

you and your foreign mother

you are from here


the land of Ezra Isaiah or Daniel

or evil kings

everything in sand

could be home



but are we Samson’s girls

did he set foxes

fields on fire

in my mother’s country


will I ever be wanted like Delilah

hair slick to my waist I want


to know when

she cut his hair

as he slept

did it fall like mine


this strange

slow halo


and what kind of promise

do I make to make


something stay fall

upward profuse


the opposite of exile

black as my mother’s

worthy of a veil


in congregation the preacher

water in square palm turns

my mother my sister


makes twin tributaries

of their parted hair

I imagine myself a bride

a jawbone to swing


imagine myself the nest

of bees the lion the rope


the valley the honey the lock

the loom of my mother’s

quiet worship


imagine my hair growing

long in miracle and stained


glass light stream


if my hair is my country

I want all my people home


the preacher lifts

up my hat I did not want to wear

and I wait for God

I wait for God


but I have already

lost all my hair







he wants

to know if it matches

my drapes

in this photo flattened

I am so bald

I am a year

without any of it


he is unremarkable

dating app lonely

when I was fifteen

a doctor asked

if my pubic hair was


after so you married

a white boy


to my mother

his hair was the color

of my mother’s

of my carpet in college

I used to pay

Priscilla the Brazilian forty-five

minutes up the interstate to rip

out all the hair

I thought no one wanted

it took

years to grow


back it can take

time to weave


a man introduced

me to his mother outside

Esfahan while she worked

a loom so fine it was threaded


metallic on tile no

curtains in her house

he wiped

dead dragonflies from wind

shield glass asked

could you ever

love me


I said

No but he kept

the question over

turning their wings

in his hands

is loneliness anything

but a question asked over


and over and over

or the one made

to answer is it always

a symptom

of loss


does it always match

the body

that holds it

I am years without

a touch a room a mouth

a reason to pull

the blinds I must tell you

I was loved


I understand


the wings

the thread the question

you’ve lost

nothing if you’ve torn

it out yourself

so what he really wants

to know is does loss

match loss match


loss match







Makeup Tutorial at Grey Gardens



should I show you how my aunt did me

she cut my cheekbones from baby fat

with a set she brought from Turkey

and held my face and kissed my lips

after drawing them in umber


her sponges stained and sick sweet made

the night around my eyes and she copied

her tattoo eyebrows onto mine then dragged

stars against my hairless arms


no one else looked so grown up

at the school dance my teachers balked fish

faced and no one asked me to sway


how long did it take you to figure out

how to frame your face and how old

is your pencil I see your eyes are hooded

like the cape the sweater the skirt you pin

like mine it takes practice to know our shadows


Edie your nose is running

like mine too without any hair

don’t be embarrassed

here is a tissue

to hold yourself with

while I contour fox eye

full face I refuse falsies

they don’t stay with us

and the light can be

cruel I hear everyone

like us is blessed with

good skin clear as fall

sky poreless a petal


everyday I make

a wing I miss

my eyelashes

a little bit less

Edie let me define your

mouth come make a kiss


Aria Curtis is an Iranian-American writer from Atlanta. She holds an MFA from Arizona State University and is the recipient of fellowships from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing as well as a 2021 Georgia Review SoPoCo Emerging Writer Fellowship. She has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Offing, The Shallow Ends, Yemassee, and elsewhere.