ashley hajimirsadeghi

content warning for gun violence

I deeply slit my thumb in two on a can while
making pizza, cussed as the sink filled

with blood. It didn’t seem to stop and

I thought, for a brief second, this is what
it means to die. This is what it means

to end a life. In Georgia, six Asian-American
women were shot and murdered today. Two
others were also killed. I didn’t know this

as I clutched a drenched paper towel to my finger,

holding back tears as scarlet began to bleed through

the thin layers. I saw a woman crying outside.

It seemed as if she would never stop crying—

this was hours before the incident.

Was she weeping for me? Or the onslaught

of spring? She shouldn’t walk alone. My

Momma always told me women aren’t

safe, worried for me when I was alone in

a big, seemingly empty city. A man on the

subway once told me I looked like I held

a lifetime of sadness. I wanted to say

I swallow the stones, the burden, of our

history each day. As the stones accumulate,

this is what it means to choke. That some

of us won’t make it out. But he will. He almost

always will, unless collateral damage. The woman

picks up her pace until she is jogging, looking

over her shoulder as she crosses the jagged

street. I wish I could tell her to stay

safe as I try to stop the bleeding.


We had forgotten our ancestors

had stolen the kingdom’s fire. They

tried and tried again, until they succeeded.

The flame was snuffed out immediately,

the land left in darkness. It was a curse.

We eat dinner covered in the light

of night, play theatrics of a complete

family. Momma says we don’t believe

in family folklore while lighting

candles. She clutches a knife to her

chest like a cross, swears that she hates

the kitchen. My father was a cook,

we never saw much of him. We say the

heat of the kitchen stole him away.

On Sundays, when it rained, he came

home and cooked Iranian food for us.

One day, this table will slowly empty,

no one left to eat the dishes of saffron

rice and kabobs. My mother keeps

forgetting to blow out the candles before

she goes to bed. No one will be left

to steal the embers, blow out the

flames, of what was once our history.


The statistical probability of becoming
a dragon is 0%. I put my tongue to
a candle flame anyways, in hopes
of breathing fire. I divide my sins
and throw them in, to grow our
hearth. Momma said the old sawmill
burned down yesterday, there are
rumors of someone, something, lurking
in the meadows. They don’t know what
or who. To be a dragon is to be a beast.
A deity. Something to be feared.
I ask of you, do you fear me?

I can throw this flame onto the
wooden floors, emerge from

the ashes unscathed. Snake gods
can shed their skin and start anew.
The statistical probability of dying
is unknown. It depends on the
circumstances. No one died at

the sawmill. Circumstances can be
constructed, just like myths. The
mathematics of creation can avoid
the burning. The odds of scorching
my tongue, leaving me choking

on the ashes, is 100%.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for Mud Season Review and EX/POST Magazine, is the Playwriting & Director’s Apprentice at New Perspectives Theatre Company, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at