Archive, New Series, Poems

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

Rain o everyth+I made a map of myself and tucked it in your bag
wondering if you would need it at all        here the skinny weeds
you told me to pluck       here the fingerbone       here
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 dry       limestone carvings rubbed smooth
there is a tender rot in everything       the note you left
which once read what I must bear       now begins my very brave boy

Kaveh Akbar‘s poems are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Poetry, APR, Tin House, and elsewhere. His debut full-length, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, will be published by Alice James Books in September.