Feature image by Joseph Cornell, Penny Arcade, circa 1962. Collage and ink on board. Image via Swann Galleries.


don’t ask someone if they’re afraid of dyingit’s tasteless
and they’ll always lieinstead ask if they’ve ever been chained up

in a dungeontime yellowstaining their skinor if they’ve ever
had to collect rainwater for weeks on end stretching out rags

to soak up wet to squeeze through their lipsthe rain-
water here is full of phosphorous if you drink

too much your kidneys faileverything has limits
my grandfather fixed watches for half a century until cataracts

thick as figskin took his eyeswe tell this kind of story
to stay humbleconsider the carnival geek choking on chicken blood

consider the dazzling fortress of copper sucked back into
the earththe soldiers tumbling into the split were bad seeds

they never did sproutthe best part of God is the math of God
you can count the pearls leading from here to himsometimes

faith feels too far away to be of any usea distant moon built
from the prophets’ holy bonesother times it’s so near

I can hold it between my teethI am as good as my wordwhich is to say
I’m keyless as the language of twinsthe womb is a clammy pulp

of shredded tongues where we choose our obsessionsI came out
hot as a punched jawmy head a beautiful blushing

pistachioto reach me now you will have to figure out
my birthnamea hintit rhymes with Tassiopeia

do you understand what I’m sayingI confess I have been trying
to seduce youI’m not the fat egg I claimed to beI’m sorry for that

and for all the tearsthe delicate emotions should have felt more
hypotheticalI have mastered this grammar and little more

Kaveh Akbar

Kaveh Akbar founded and edits Divedapper and is the author of the chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic, forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in early 2017. His poems are forthcoming in Poetry, Tin House, FIELD, Narrative, and elsewhere.