Calling a Wolf a Wolf
poems by Kaveh Akbar
Alice James Books, 2017
It has been hard, of late, for me to read poetry because my son is getting older and his sickness, younger. I know my son is not his body, but his body is a crash course in logistical identity. I read Kaveh Akbar’s book, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, with its fleeing of density and with its character-driven desertions, and found proof of place. It kept me from sleep’s rootless sideshow, and called to me from its phone booth made of wax. I wrote this note to myself after the first read-through: if blood spoke, or saw- have I ever seen so much person?
I will not quote from the book here, or give guidance from this point, as sharing is sometimes an erasing. I do not think my own appropriations of the work would do justice to Akbar’s particular museum of curiosity and collapse. This poetry, I feel, is so humanly built from its generous amnesia that it deserves to be committed to memory in the ruin created by its author’s forgetting.
I know I cannot tell my son’s sick body anything it doesn’t already know, nor healthy can I record for it the first instance of déjà vu. And yet, in the blood these poems are allowed to keep, and in their subsequent drinking of without, I find a spiritual safety. I see the body, now, and perhaps did before, as a language given to a busted vision from a full heaven. A shapelessness in need of Akbar’s investigations.
review by Barton Smock