Portrait of an Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar

This little book of poetry, written by Iranian-American Kaveh Akbar, is a collection to keep and read over and over. Dedicated to drunks, Portrait of an Alcoholic confronts the difficulty of addiction, but also provides insight into the experiences that shaped his life, and a sense of distance from so many things. He is separate from his father, on his prayer mat, and from religion. He is separate from his first language. He is removed from time, from himself, from his cravings. There is a sense of unsteady control, which language desperately aims to lasso. And, while his words may not always pull in on his need to drink, they grab me each and every time. Captivated, hungry, addicted to his interpretations. How can one not imbibe? 


some boys aren't born they bubble

        up from the earth's crust        land safely around

kitchen tables green globes of fruit already


                  in their mouths         when they find themselves crying

      they stop crying these boys moan

                  more than other boys         they do as desire


demands         when they dance their bodies plunge

            into space and recover      the music stays

in their breastbones they sing songs


                        about storms then dry their shoes on porches

        these boys are so cold their pilot lights never light

                        they buy the best heat money can buy      blue flames


swamp smoke       they are desperate

                to lick and be licked          sometimes one will eat

all the food in a house or break every bone


                          in his jaw          sometimes one will disappear into himself

         like a ram charging a mirror when this happens

                          they all feel it       afterwards the others dream


of rain their pupils boil they light black candles

          and pray the only prayer they know          oh lord

spare this body         set fire to another