The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Scattered Arils by Dena Rod

This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Scattered Arils by Dena Rod, released by Milk & Cake Press in 2021. 


the british are known
for their tea, spoils of their empire
across the asian continent,
an afternoon tea service,
watercress crusts cut off,
chinese porcelain cups,
ivory and petal pink

but not for chai with clear
glass vessels in gilded
wrought-handled covers,
imbued with amniotic fuel,
a gourey perched
top of engraved samovar
served eldest to youngest

a sugar cube held between teeth,
a saucer to pour and cool,
sipped to dissolve the crystals
down your throat.

chai said like
“cha” and “yee”
not “chay” like shy
flowing over tastebuds
bookended molasses cinnamon
copper amber coveted

not a store bought concentrate
mixed with nut milks
rather hand mixed tea
from cluttered spice cabinets
filled to the brim
with fennel seeds
saffron pistils, sumac
ground in jars
stored in secret
carried in suitcases,
mint and dried limes
on plane rides west
from iran,
a reverse spice road.

chai like
jasmine blooming
on a warm dark night
fallen orange blossoms
curled and dried
picked from damp tanbark
dust on fingers,
a laid out palette
cured and blended.

Dena Rod is a queer Iranian American poet and essayist who focuses on illuminating their diasporic experiences. Described by The Bold Italic as a “verbose advocate,” they’ve been widely published in literary journals and anthologies such as The Rumpus, My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora, and Butter Press. In 2020, they debuted the chapbook swallow a beginning and toured with RADAR Production’s Sister Spit. Scattered Arils is their first poetry collection.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.


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