poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 3, 2017.
About this Poem 

“Of poetry, Heather McHugh says, ‘As a daily aesthetic, it goes beyond rhetorical exercise: the main discipline is to keep finding life strange.’ I understand this to mean poetry must wonder, must make an intimate partner of strangeness. I think my poem is deeply interested in that process.”
—Kaveh Akbar

The Perfect Poem

In god’s gleaming empire, herds of triceratops
lunge up on their hind legs to somersault
around the plains. The angels lie in the sun
using straight pins to eat hollyhocks. Mostly
they just rub their bellies and hum quietly

to themselves, but the few sentences
they do utter come out as perfect poems.
Here on earth we blather constantly, and
all we say is divided between combat
and seduction. Combat: I understand you perfectly. 
Seduction: Next time don’t say so out loud.
Here the perfect poem eats its siblings

in the womb like a sand shark or a star turning
black hole, then saunters into the world
daring us to stay mad. We know most of our
universe is missing. The perfect poem knows
where it went. The perfect poem is no bigger
than a bear. Its birthday hat comes with
a black veil which prattles on and on about

comet ash and the ten thousand buds of
the tongue. Like people and crows, the
perfect poem can remember faces and hold
grudges. It keeps its promises. The perfect
poem is not gold or lead or a garden gate
locked shut or a sail slapping in a storm.
The perfect poem is its own favorite toy.

It is not a state of mind or a kind of doubt
or a good or bad habit or a flower of any
color. It will not be available to answer
questions. The perfect poem is light as dust
on a bat’s wing, lonely as a single flea.

Copyright © 2017 by Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Kaveh Akbar

Kaveh Akbar

Kaveh Akbar is the author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017).

by this poet

poem

how much history is enough history     before we can agree
to flee our daycares      to wash everything away and start over
leaving laptops to be lost in the wet along with housecats and Christ’s
own mother      even a lobster climbs away from its shell a few
times

poem

I wouldn’t even know what to do with a third chance,
another halo to shake loose galloping into the crossfire.
     Should I be apologizing? Supposedly, what’s inside my

     body is more or less the same as what’s inside yours—
here, the river girl clutching her toy whistle. There,
the

poem
Throw scissors at it. 
Fill it with straw 
and set it on fire, or set it 
off for the colonies with only 
some books and dinner-
plates and a stuffed bear 
named Friend Bear for me 
to lose in New Jersey. 
Did I say me? Things 
have been getting
less and less hypothetical 
since I unhitched myself 
from