Can You Remove Your Necklace During Work Hours?

And the first words out of my mouth
do not buck into a shield, do not blast his ears
with refusal, not never, in my quiet defense
something un-proud: it’s not even Muslim,
as I convert that s to a z, and twist, twist my hair
all of it uncovered for his ease and a reminder,
it’s Persian, not Islamic, so uncommon
it is untraceable; I hook my fingers around the plate,
make a roof with my palm and cover it, I designed it,
I explain, release the rose-gold letters so they swing
and impress a thud against my neck; I cannot
even get a nail grip on the clasp, I laugh, at the self
so quick to condemn, to chant in blocked streets,
recite the outrage of my signs until here, this interview,
where the question is asked in the politest tone,
so courtly and elegant, that I deliver a fumbling excuse
instead of no, and each time an image of my parents,
tracing my mother in the hospital bed, pressing it—
now a precious metal heated and cooled—to her firstborn,
and I jump down her throat and pull and pull and pull
everything, my name, out of her postnatal breath


Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad is the daughter of Irooni immigrants, a worshipper of space and hyacinths, and an Oscar the Grouch apologist. Her poetry has appeared in Asian American Writers’ Workshop, The Missing Slate, and is forthcoming in Waxwing. She is the poetry editor for Noble / Gas Qtrly, is a Best of the Net poet, Pushchart Prize, and Best New Poets nominee. She lives in New York where she practices matrimonial law.