after Kaveh Akbar
still stretches in the morning toward nothing.
a corner with a desk & chair, a glass
of water reaching for its rim. repeats
the two shortest surahs in the qur’an with a whisper
that wouldn’t fog a window. in arabic, there is a word
that means both breath & spirit. ghosts slither
around her lips like a pilot flame, bidding them
to part, hypnosis coaxed with jewel-encrusted horns.
in a cellar not far from here, wine waits years to peak
before a bottle is cracked open only to empty
a bruise. oil leaps from the controlled heat
of cast iron & tattoos a comma onto someone’s wrist.
once, i wandered into church after bringing my body
to the brink of combustibility. i can’t remember
what the priest told me, but know the photo
taken by heart—me, pale in the pews, windless & tranquil
as a toppled statue. now i wake everyday & try to do less
harm than the day before. still, one doesn’t choose
their obsessions. i couldn’t help myself when i stole
your wallet just to pretend i was you. don’t forgive me. i don’t
even know how to apologize. what’s the next right thing?
in aramaic, the words for rope & camel are one
letter off. one of the jewel-horned ghosts urged me
to trust God but to tie my camel. i can’t even trust myself.
i left the rope wriggling in the wind, tried to whip
& gallop my way through the needle’s eye
only to end up eating sand. my beloved lives
where blasphemy & the blade race to reach an open
throat—a lamb’s sacrifice & requittal called a kinder
silence swirling to meet the same drain.
she sheathes her hair under the soft strain
of satin, her tongue cribbed so tight in her cheek
it throbs. i’ve staked out street corners all winter
to draw my body’s outline thick enough
to see through the fog on rooftops.
she drew one breath & my corpse disappeared
like a kiss dissolving on a quay. here we mistake
the hawks’ restless circle for a carousel
in the sky, car tires spit out by ocean tides
for discarded halos of sunbathing angels. you might
call these miracles, or something closer to mischief
like sirens forging stars to hoodwink cartographers.
as far as they are, we still whisper—a song
so forlorn spirits guiding ships to wreck long for the shore.