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Being in This World Makes Me Feel Like a Time Traveler by Kaveh Akbar

Being in This World Makes Me Feel Like a Time Traveler
Kaveh Akbar

visiting a past self. Being anywhere makes me thirsty.
When I wake, I ask God to slide into my head quickly before I do.
As a boy, I spit a peach pit onto my father’s prayer rug and immediately

it turned into a locust. Its charge: devour the vast fields of my ignorance.
The Prophet Muhammad described a full stomach as containing
one-third food, one-third liquid, and one-third air.

For years, I kept a two-fists-long beard and opened my mouth only to push air out.
One day I stopped in a lobby for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres
and ever since, the life of this world has seemed still. Every night,

the moon unpeels itself without affectation. It’s exhausting, remaining
humble amidst the vicissitudes of fortune. It’s difficult
to be anything at all with the whole world right here for the having.


I would like to go back to 2012, when I wasn’t speaking for months and months, and the only thought in my head was: I’d like to die. I would like to tell that self that someday, perhaps in 2015, I will be glad I didn’t, and also perhaps, in 2020, I will be furious I didn’t.

I would like to go back to when I was seven or eight, when I stood before the body of my mother who pretended that she was dead, and give back the childhood that was horribly wrenched away from me in that single moment. I would like to go back to when I was eleven or fifteen or nineteen or twenty-two or thirty, especially in moments when I have raised my arms to ward off blows, and whisper to my own ears: you will survive this.

I would like to go to 2021 or 2022, hoping this pandemic is over, hoping that everyone I’ve lost has gone on to a world better than this one, hoping I am still standing and saying, well here I am.

I would like to go to 2009, when I would pick up the phone and hear my grandfather’s voice instead of the nurse saying frantically: hurry, hurry.

I would like to go back three or four months ago, when I am still able to take care of myself, when I still have people in my life who weren’t infected with the disease, when I still have a place of work that values me, when the world hasn’t gone to shit, but hasn’t this world always been shit hasn’t the police always been killing black men hasn’t the government always been the true terrorist hasn’t my white employer think I’m worth less because of the colour of my skin hasn’t been hasn’t been hasn’t been—

But maybe this would do, words softly spoken by a lover from some forgotten dream: I need you here with me.


This poem appeared in Calling A Wolf A Wolf: Poems by Kaveh Akbar, published by Alice James Books, 2017. Shared here with profound gratitude.


Read more works by Kaveh Akbar • Find books by this poet • Or view my library


Explore poems in pursuit of:  wounds • what is holy • the self • Or browse the index

dear reader

This little corner of the world is my passion project since 2005My commitment is that it will always remain free to all.


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Thank you for being here all these years—and into the future—as I hold poets to the light.

Comments (14)

  • Adriana Santa Cruz

    Im just glad you are back. That you didnt sink so deep you are floating again. Or maybe its the other way around, and you were well enough to be silent and comfortable in your skin, for some time and now it hurts badly enough to reach out again, like in those days where Your pain and our pain were one

  • Hi! I stumbled on your curation during my first job 9 years ago, and you’ve introduced me to my favorite pieces. I’ve got 15 poems saved in Pocket app from what you’ve blogged. I’ve even introduced my sister to The Patience of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider.
    You are right about the virus just exposing how the world really is. I’m not imposing on you, but if you have 2 hours I hope you can check out the hope that I have in this audio book –
    And then after this maybe you’d read You are tired by e.e. Cummings? Matthew 11:28 sounds like that

  • Criena J Fitzgerald

    Glad you’re back writing – reading the poetry is nourishment to the soul

  • Drishti

    Reading this post feels like visiting an old friend after a long time. I’m happy you’re back and even though the world seems to be falling apart, poetry gives us hope.

  • So glad to get the update of your post in my inbox. Thank you! Thank you! Please keep writing. Your words have given me such hope in the midst of the maddest times.

  • Dabney

    I am so thankful you are alive and again writing. Your words are a balm, even with their pain. Thank you.

  • Veronica Uy

    i drop by every time i feel the need for some poetry. i scour your collection like a hungry homeless scavenger. thank you. glad you’re back

  • Jeannie

    Hello, and goodbye again. I’ll be here, then happy when you return again.

  • Sujeesh N.M

    Thanks for this. He is one of my fav. I’m a Malayalam Poet.

  • Aims

    You have been in my life since, 2005… I’ve taken you with me from Alaska to Portland in 2013, to Pittsburgh til 2015 and we’ve been close strangers going full circle back in AK.

    I seek you in the most painful times, unknowingly your compassion shows me the universe has a funny way of keeping you sane… I am 31 now, and still feel in awe the moment I discovered you, every time I visit.

    Thank you, friend.

  • Reading this hurt – but in a good way.

  • etheromane


    I found this while hunting for Arkaye Kierulf’s Spaces. I’m glad I followed it back to your site.

    People – at least the ones I know – don’t really write anymore, not like this. Your posts make me feel so much less alone. Thank you.

  • M.

    I don’t remember what poem I googled, but it brought me to your incredible collection of poems & all pages of our soul. Thank you for sharing yourself, & I look forward to continue to hear from you (whenever you return.) But until then, I’ll be binging your past works.

  • Vatsala



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