Two Poems

Poetry / Ryan Kaveh Sheldon

I’m so taken by these maps

& their prettified economy

lemons, cows, an oil derrick
pomegranates, a camel, rugs

to draw a world in the language of want

I flip to another graphic
it’s where the missiles landed—

that’s my luxury /casual movement
among unshattered windows

and through oneself like an archive

I want to say it’s a hunger
for knowing things

in the cartographer’s
scarified hand // no ideas but in labor neatly


in space
you’ll never see

these pastel indicators
this beet and half a lemon

redrawing the provinces
with my fingers

I’ve read from a distance
about the way tulips grow
upside down in this place

to want for an icon

as if to say: is this my village
pixelated into the side of

a mountain

or you can’t make a map like this anymore

or this, this is where I was from—

the bombing of “Agrabah”

between a “hot war” and a “cold war”

a corpse war

& here’s another way to think about it: it’s like the movie was made for them, the near-constant weather of aggression, a world opening and scarring in rhythm with patterns of extraction and firebombing—pre-coded, the most visible war, the green, the infared, muted black & white

footage of the largest conventional munition in existence
falling into Nangarhar
                                        & its telecommuted soundtrack

“I am guided by the beauty of our weapons”

lit like a small blue television

our mainstream night


it’s the way The Exorcist opens on a desert landscape,

workers digging faceless into the sand

the chimerical statues sunlit and halo’d
those early, cursorial cues of dark mysticism

& it’s as if to say one can only conceive
satan making

fated flight and climb

towards human spoilage
from this the last & the first

place in the world,

(can you make

                              sand glow)

Ryan Kaveh Sheldon is an Iranian-American writer based in Buffalo, NY. He is a PhD candidate in the Poetics Program at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. His work appears or is forthcoming in matchbook, DIAGRAM, Small Po[r]tions, Poor Claudia, and Jacket2. He is one of the co-founders of the Hostile Books collective.