Aria Aber’s “The Institution”

In a new poem from LARB Quarterly no. 41, “Truth,” Aria Aber imagines the joy of a rock rolled endlessly uphill.

Aria Aber’s “The Institution”

This is a preview of the LARB Quarterly, no. 41: TruthBecome a member to get this issue plus the next four issues of the LARB Quarterly.


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The Institution


Most literary was the sun those weeks—it touched everything,


and yet it was restrained: first it turned the alphabet blue


and lavender, and then it hid the world entirely.


The windows were locked, and all the tools were toys.


I balanced a bowl of kala namak on my head and called it high art.


And there were gag orders on the ideas I would develop


in my nightly solitude, but all I could think of


were the thinkers who, close to the end of their lives,


jumped from windows in dusty apartments, because all that thinking


got too tedious. It’s important not to imagine just Sisyphus


but also the stone as happy—the stone, being rolled up, and down,


getting to be touched by the grass everywhere. How happy it is! Imagine! Grass!


I had a different lesson to learn, but still, I was dreaming of ecstasy,


of oysters with fries and speeding through the night.


The stone was my friend, I decided, and every morning,


I was a furious child dancing in the grass, the valves of my heart


opening to the truth like the gills of a fish in a cold, private river.


It was a Tuesday in America. Oh, I was lucky to be here.

LARB Contributor

Aria Aber was raised in Germany, where she was born to Afghan parents. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Granta, and elsewhere. She is the author of the poetry collection Hard Damage (University of Nebraska Press, 2019) and the forthcoming novel Good Girl (Hogarth, 2025), which will be translated into six languages. She lives in Los Angeles. 

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