Portrait of the Alcoholic with Shattered Pelvis

I am perfectly fine here: ice-choked, 

thin as an eyelash. The bootprints on 

my headboard are getting darker.

The chimney: clogged with fish eyes 

and sea glass. Somewhere my enemies 

are singing to the food on their plates.

As a boy watching movies with my father, 

I’ d sit near his couch so he could whirl

his fingers through my hair. My scalp beamed.

My whole life was unlived and predictable. 


Now knotted in these sheets, I feel like a snake

in a burlap sack. I’ve spilled wine everywhere 

and the ants are coming. If you could count

my bones, you’ d find I have fewer today 

than I did a week ago. They’re cobbling 

themselves together into a maze. At its 

center: a monster, needful

and hunted. Built wrong. Instead 

of eyes: sockets of black sand.

The monster will be difficult to find,


but once discovered he will be so easy

to kill. When touched, he explodes

into topsoil. My skeleton knows this,

is already hardening around him

like a marble tomb. It’s scary

to think your bones might outlive you, 

might wash up on some gritty shore

and become soup bowls or hairpins.

To be useful while prophets decompose 

in the ground seems nearly profane. 


Here, things are beginning

to peel apart: my skin, the ceiling paint,

even the fruit in the fridge. I know 

this can all be fixed. I’ve seen it: blood

pumping back into a vein, a cracked

ancient fresco colored back into life.

There are so many ways to intervene

against dying. The meat I eat turns back

into living meat. Still, unmoving

in this bed, I’ve been struggling to produce


a single miracle. Long ago, standing in a patch

of milkweed, I dipped my hand into the pond

and pulled up a fistful of tadpoles.

Most dripped back into the water

but one stayed in my palm, drying

into almost-paper. If it had asked me

to let it live I would have, my spirit

flea-weak and cloddish. Now as then

the question is obvious: how do we want

to be forgotten? I know my answer—


Kaveh Akbar is the founding editor of Divedapper. His poems have appeared recently in the New YorkerPoetryThe NationPloughshares, and elsewhere. His first book, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, is just out with Alice James in the U.S. and Penguin Books in the UK.