My Work

Razi Shadmehry

My father is a contractor but also, and mostly, my father. His work is to gather firewood we may
not need to light, to scoop pomegranate seeds and teach us their name in Farsi. He places bowls
of anar on the table and waits till four spoons lift first.

My mother is retired but also, and mostly, my mother. Her work has always been to make the
world feel big for us. There is treasure in the backyard, a pirate ship in the pool. I am grown now
but still stand barefoot in the lawn, waiting for the wink of a lightning bug and wondering if we
dug deep enough.

My sister is a divorce attorney. Her work is to listen to the way an agreement, bound by God,
unravels. She has been trained in logic, in justice, and on her own has learned the rest. (The rest:
how to carry weight that is not yours, to pick up the phone long after 5 p.m., to answer a hard
question gently.)

My brother is a data scientist. His work is to assess need, to gather information, to comb through
and through the facts and boil it down to one solution, legible for the masses. He builds intricate
processes, secret codes for nobody to see, all in the name of discovery.

And they are also, and mostly, my sister and brother. Their job is to bookend my being. Together
we grow taller on the closet wall, pass the anar, leave each other and return again. My work is
to remember.

The output of my work is nothing you can hold; there is barely a paper trail. It is not of monetary
value and not driven by the promise of it. There is no promise of money at all, nor of completion,
or even satisfaction. If my work holds promise of something, I haven’t found it yet.

And yet: my work is labor the way love is labor, is liability, is constant risk assessment. Not
worth it, not worth it, not worth it; until it is, until she holds my face in her hands and says her
body isn’t big enough to hold this feeling, all of this love. And so my work becomes a second

My friend, a painter, mixes colors until we see the fields of flowers in her head.
My friend, a teacher, enunciates and makes new places feel known. 
My friend, a nurse, keeps us alive.  You're good to go, she says. Enjoy it.

My work is also these.