Funeral in Paris

Aria Aber

The aunts here clink Malbec glassesand parade their grief with musky,expensive scents that whisperin elevators and hallways.Each natural passing articulatesthe unnatural: every aunt has a sonwho fell, or a daughter who hid in rubblefor two years, until that knock of officersholding a bin bag filled with a dressand bones. But what do I know?I get pedicures and eat croissantswhile reading Swann's Way. When I tellone aunt I'd like to go back,she screams it is not yours to want.Have some cream cheese with that, says another.Oh, what wonder to be alive and seemy father's footprints in his sister's garden.He's furiously scissoring the hyacinths,saying all the time when the tele-researcher asks himhow often do you think your lifeis a mistake? During the procession, the aunts' wailsvibrate: wires full of crows in heavy wind.I hate every plumed minute of it. God inventedeverything out of nothing, but the nothingshines through, said Paul Valéry. Paris never charmed me,but when some stranger asksif it stinks in Afghanistan, I am so shockedthat I hug him. And he lets me, his anklesbriefly brushing against mine.

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Aria Aber was raised in Germany, where she was born to Afghan refugees. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Poetry Magazine, The Yale Review, and other publications. She is the author of Hard Damage, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.

"Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, Aber's ruminative lyrical debut tracks the movements of a twice-emigrated poet in poems that are personal and confessional."
Publishers Weekly

"Aria Aber's first book of poetry, Hard Damage, does not consent to the simple narrative or the soundbite. It reminds readers that every displaced person, whether refugee, immigrant, or the child of one, carries with them a parcel of stories, stories that are often suppressed and mutated by the dominant culture, or lost to reductive media coverage. . . . Hard Damage allows the songs—and the lives that they contain—to unfurl."
—Marie Scarles, Rumpus

"Aber is not afraid of erudition or the hard labor of crafting poems that peel open in layers; at times, reading her work reminded me of poets who have worked across similarly broad linguistic topographies: Carolyn Forché, Frank Bidart, Paul Celan, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stevens, and others. But Aber's work here is hardly derivative of those masters. She is her own poet, her own voice, and her debut is my favorite volume of poetry this year."
—Christian Kiefer, Paris Review

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