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What Use is Knowing Anything if No One is Around

What use is knowing anything if no one is around

to watch you know it? Plants reinvent sugar daily

and hardly anyone applauds. Once as a boy I sat

in a corner covering my ears, singing Qur’anic verse

after Qur’anic verse. Each syllable was perfect, but only

the lonely rumble in my head gave praise. This is why

we put mirrors in birdcages, why we turn on lamps

to double our shadows. I love my body more

than other bodies. When I sleep next to a man, he becomes

an extension of my own brilliance. Or rather, he becomes

an echo of my own anticlimax. I was delivered

from dying like a gift card sent in lieu of a pound

of flesh. My escape was mundane, voidable. Now

I feed faith to faith, suffer human noise, complain

about this or that heartache. The spirit lives in between

the parts of a name. It is vulnerable only to silence

and forgetting. I am vulnerable to hammers, fire,

and any number of poisons. The dream, then: to erupt

into a sturdier form, like a wild lotus bursting into

its tantrum of blades. There has always been a swarm

of hungry ghosts orbiting my body—even now,

I can feel them plotting in their luminous diamonds

of fog, each eying a rib or a thighbone. They are

arranging their plans like worms preparing

to rise through the soil. They are ready to die

with their kind, dry and stiff above the wet earth.

from Calling a Wolf a WolfFind more by Kaveh Akbar at the library

Copyright © 2017 Kaveh Akbar
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Kaveh Akbar Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.