Poetry: Tassiopeia by Kaveh Akbar
If you haven’t yet read a poem by the rising poet Kaveh Akbar, “Tassiopeia” is a great place to start: beautiful language dances between fresh images of the body and confessions of faith. Kaveh writes gracefully, without awkwardness or hesitation, and this poem plays with space and grammar and breath as if divinely commanded to do so.
the rainwater here is full of phosphorous if you drink too much
your kidneys fail everything has limits my grandfather fixed watches
for half a century until cataracts thick as figskin took his eyes we tell
this kind of story to stay humble consider the carnival geek choking
on chicken blood consider the dazzling fortress of copper sucked back
into the earth the soldiers tumbling into the split were bad seeds
they never did sprout the best part of God is the math of God
you can count the pearls leading from here to him sometimes
faith feels too far away to be of any use a distant moon built
from the prophets’ holy bones other times it’s so near
I can hold it between my teeth I am as good as my word which is to say
I’m keyless as the language of twins the womb is a clammy pulp
of shredded tongues where we choose our obsessions I came out
hot as a punched jaw my head a beautiful blushing
pistachio to reach me now you will have to figure out
my birthname a hint it rhymes with Tassiopeia
do you understand what I’m saying I confess I have been trying
to seduce you I’m not the fat egg I claimed to be I’m sorry for that
and for all the tears the delicate emotions should have felt more
hypothetical I have mastered this grammar and little more
Go to Guernica, May 2016 to see Kaveh’s earlier version of this poem.
Kaveh Akbar is the founding editor of Divedapper. His poems are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Poetry, Ploughshares, APR, and elsewhere. His debut full-length collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, will be published by Alice James Books in September 2017; he is also the author of the chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic. The recipient of a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and currently lives and teaches in Florida.