Soot

by Kaveh Akbar
 

          Sometimes God comes to earth disguised as rust,
chewing away a chain-link fence or a mariner’s knife.
          From up so close we must seem
clumsy and gloomless, like new lovers

undressing in front of each other
          for the first time. Regarding loss, I’m afraid
to keep it in the story,
          worried what I might bring back to life,

          like the marble angel who woke to find
his innards scattered around his feet.
          Blood from the belly tastes sweeter
than blood from anywhere else. We know this

but don’t know why—the woman on TV
          dabs a man’s gutwound with her hijab
then draws the cloth to her lips, confused.
          I keep dreaming I’m a creature pulling out my claws

          one by one to sell in a market stall next to stacks
of pomegranates and garden tools. It’s predictable,
          the logic of dreams. Long ago I lived in Heaven
because I wanted to. When I fell to earth

I knew the way—through the soot, into the leaves.
          It still took years. Upon landing, the ground
embraced me sadly, with the gentleness
          of someone delivering tragic news to a child.
 

 

Kaveh Akbar’s poems have recently appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. His debut collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, will be published by Alice James Books in fall 2017.

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