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

Kaveh Akbar is the founding editor of Divedapper. His poems are forthcoming in The New YorkerPoetryPloughshares, 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.

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