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Tag: Kaveh Akbar

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.


Reyhaneh Jabbari, a twenty-six-year-old Iranian woman, was hanged

on October 25th, 2014 for killing a man who was attempting to rape her.

the body is a mosque borrowed from Heaven centuries of time

stain the glazed brick our skin rubs away like a chip

in the middle of an hourglass sometimes I am so ashamed

of my sentience how little it matters angels don’t care about humility

you shaved your head spent eleven days half-starved in solitary

and not a single divine trumpet wept into song now it’s lonely all over

I’m becoming more a vessel of memories than a person it’s a myth

that love lives in the heart it lives in the throat we push it out

when we speak when we gasp we take a little for ourselves

in books love can be war-ending a soldier drops his sword

to lie forking oysters into his enemy’s mouth in life we hold love up to the light

to marvel at its impotence you said in a letter to Sholeh

you weren’t even killing the roaches in your cell that you would take them up

by their antennae and flick them through the bars into a courtyard

where you could see men hammering long planks of cypress into gallows

the same men who years before threw their rings in the mud who watered them

five times daily who shot blackbirds off almond branches

and kissed the soil at the sight of sprouts then cursed each other when the stalks

which should have licked their lips withered dryly at their knees may God beat

us awake scourge our brains to life may we measure every victory

by the momentary absence of pain there is no solace in history this is a gift

we are given at birth a pocket we fold into at death goodbye now you mountain

you armada of flowers you entire miserable decade in a lump in my throat

despite all our endlessly rehearsed rituals of mercy it was you we sent on

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.

Before you Left on Your Journey Which Has Kept You Away for So Long

I made a map of myself and tucked it in your bag

wondering if you would need it at allhere the skinny weeds

you told me to pluckhere the fingerbonehere

the white bellyscar where you tore out a mole with your teeth

none of that was new but I am learning to be more surprising

there is this trick where I hide behind a banana leaf

and become a starfish any part of me you remove

will grow back I nearly have it mastered

remember my tongue clapping for yours like a scallop

how it was always oafish and eager with its language

of pure babybrained devotion it was so simple

unembarrassed even by your great eloquence

slowly my whole face has been changing rocky and geologic

it is becoming less like a rose and more like a thornbush

from a sermon about a thornbush which when torn up

and swallowed could feed a hungry village for a month

if you look around you will see the vanishing has widened

water pots boiled drylimestone carvings rubbed smooth

there is a tender rot in everythingthe note you left

which once read what I must bearnow begins my very brave boy

from Poetry Northwest 11.1 Summer & Fall 2016More by Kaveh Akbar from the library

Copyright © Kaveh Akbar
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

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.