This Could've Been Yours if You Wanted It: the Mountains

Kaveh Akbar


This could have been yours if you wanted it: the mountains
of Idaho, crickets chirping in e-minor, daylilies exploding morning
and night. The surface of this kingdom belongs to us
but its guts are its own, gurgling and terrible. The earth wants only 

to wrestle us into its clutches, to darken us to sleep, but between us and it
there’s light. You would think this was beautiful. I’ve been thinking
about the night we walked into the ocean, far enough away from land
to stop smelling the fishboats. You told me the rocks 

were cutting into your feet, that you’d lost the instructions you were born with.
We sent waves back to the shore, unholdable as anything, never
in my hands or your hands and now eroding even from my mind. Earlier
tonight it was so dark I could hardly see the ground outside hardening
magnetic and cut with gold—what some might call alchemical. 

It’s so easy to become estranged from perception, to believe you're actively
disappearing or already gone. For hours now I’ve been adding water to the samovar,
reading old diary entries, charting my sins into Chemical, Sexual, and Other.
Pinned here like an exotic spider, I feel useless and devoid of magic.
I keep the windows cracked just enough to peek out, to listen for whispers 

in the neighbor’s house. The only sound—faith calling for its verb:
stay. I take great care in choosing my metaphors. Me the drunk. You the railroad track.
Me the sleep. You the screeching brakes. What I mean is that it’s pathetic.
Every day, ribbed with hunger, I eat a dozen apricots and pinch my bellyfat, 

excitedly asking may I keep this? No one answers. When you were around,
you tried to curb my voraciousness, told me that a teaspoon of honey
was the lifework of twenty bees, that dignity came from disciplined desire.
It didn’t stick. You’ve been gone for ages, and still I’ll devour anything.