Friday, April 2, 2021

Against Hell by Kaveh Akbar

Against Hell

With sensitive enough instruments even uprooting a shrub
          becomes a seismic event. So much of living is about understanding
scale—a tiny crystal dropped in a river turns the entire river 
                    red. The hands that folded me into my body were not punishing me
          nor could they ever be punished, while the hands of the idol sculptor
                    were cut off and tossed to the dogs. This is proof of something,
but what? Maybe that retribution has grown vulgar, with sin now
          inevitable as summer sweat. Most days I try hard to act human, to breathe like a human and speak with the same flat language, but often
                    my kindness is clumsy—I stop a stranger to tie his shoe and
          end up kissing his knees. I believe in luck and am barely troubled
                    by its volatility. I remember too well the knife held to my gut, the beehive
I once spat at for hours without getting stung. The charm of this
          particular dilemma: faith begins where knowing ends. The undertaker
spills his midday latte on a corpse, a chariot wheel flies off
                    and kills a slave, and nobody asks for a refund. The unexpected
          happens, then what? The next thing. I feel most like a person when
                    I am forcing something to be silent, holding a rat underwater or twining
shut the jaw of a lamb before it’s roasted on the spit. It’s only natural to smell
          smoke and feel hungry, to lean into the confusion of tongues. If I am
to be punished for any of this, it will be thousands of years too late. 

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