Kaveh Akbar

FEET FIRST

Think of me as a room filled with souvenirs

that remind you only of buying them: an ashtray

shaped like Wisconsin purchased

near a government lake, a bronzed cat’s skull

gifted by a young trainhopper. Each time

you paint a room, it gets a little

smaller. Think of me as the frozen

pond outside, surface like a photograph

of fog. Ice is lighter than water

which is a literal miracle that keeps fish safe

and sea captains alert in the dark. Once

I was ranking my favorite shipwrecks

in ascending order of personal significance

(number one—a half-sunk canoe caught

in the cattails, sunfish circling underneath) when

a crocus bloomed straight into my face,

on purpose. Some ice will crack

into twenty-six bones, a human foot.

Some bones placed in spilled milk

will harden, then shatter. Being alive

is so confusing, most people have to

whisper around it. I control only

the contractions of my own muscles,

and I’m not sure even about those.

SILHOUETTE

I want so much to be useful to restore all the fruit I’ve carelessly bruised

to fill the holes I’ve left in my mother’s bones and free every enemy

I’ve walled into a cave but I’m not ready I keep forgetting

or refusing to improve myself my will a humming black marsh

and muddied marigolds as a boy I thought the buzz in my head

was a prophet’s grinding teeth I’m still afraid to say for sure that it’s not

the eyes are holes easily filled lightning lurking in clouds sharp black rocks

and the horizon line widening I am unyoung spoiled

by abstinence my moving what-have-yous came wrapped in a name

I was supposed to keep them dry but the water kept getting closer

columns of light thrashing through mist the difference between this moment

and the next the blood in my mouth rubies in a clay jug

AN OATH

A boy’s foot slips from the pond rock where he’s risen to recite an oath. He falls and as he falls the pond floor opens into a hot copper fissure evaporating all the water into steam. The boy breathes the steam as he thwacks his way down, the steam into the boy into the thwack into the cleft. The steam is a metaphor but the boy and the thwacks are not. A hummingbird near the pond turns to listen to the boy. She doesn’t understand metaphors or how boys sometimes tumble into the earth. To her the thwacking sounds delicate, the way a hyacinth smells. She thinks the boy will make a comely ghost.

Kaveh Akbar founded and edits Divedapper. His poems are forthcoming in Tin House, POETRY, Iowa Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic, will be out in January 2017 with Sibling Rivalry Press, and his debut full-length collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, will be out with Alice James Books in 2018.

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