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
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.
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