The Only Cab Service of Farmington, Maine

He makes me sit next to him, so I inquire—
as if remembering his own smallness
would prevent him from violating another’s—
about his childhood. Cape Cod, he recalls:

how lonely he felt among the blue expanse
each winter, longed to travel, so he joined
the Marines. And I did travel, he fools,
all the way to Afghanistan. When I tell him

that’s where I’m from, his laugh crumbles,
and I am sorry for a trembling in me
or in him, I can’t tell. Too chagrined to look
at his face, I observe krumholz, blurs

of frozen buds. Afghans are good people,
though, he disarms himself. And damn,
that food. But I loathe my Afghan blood,
especially here, amid snowy balsam firs

and cookie-cutter houses. They saved,
you know, his words butter me, my life—
gave me bread, warmth. They didn’t
have to. Bad things happened. Awful

things. Nothing is calmer today: Kabul
still mourns contaminated water,
and another suicide bomber. I shouldn’t
tell you this, but, he coughs—I miss

it sometimes. The provinces were so hot—
it was like another planet. I will never
feel at ease here, between subalpine hills, gas
stations advertising Nescafe and Dove.

But after eight years on the base, his voice
clear as a fist, you wake up, hating
the person in the mirror. Now my life
is about forgetting. Is memory a privilege?

I couldn’t, after I arrived in the States,
remember a single damn village. Is it a sin,
then, to be envious that my driver
had a home in my home—yellow dust on long,

mountainous roads, where twenty-two civilians
died in the fourth attack this month—for longer
than I ever did? He has, I feel, estranged me.
You know, I hear his heavy, American voice

crack like a creek thawing under a deer, it’s good
to be back. The unspeakable opens between us
its waters, cold, full of shame, until we drift apart
again, never asking for each other’s names.

“The Only Cab Service of Farmington, Maine,” Hard Damage by Aria Aber. Copyright © 2019 by Aria Aber. Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc and University of Nebraska Press.