You Can’t Just Go Asking for Mercy” Kaveh Akbar

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Of Little Goats and Alcoholics

Appropriately enough, Kaveh Akbar’s collection, Portrait of the Alcoholic, is dedicated quite simply “for drunks.” It’s not surprising, then, that you get poems dealing with issues of addiction.

One has the catchy title, “Besides, Little Goat, You Can’t Just Go Asking for Mercy.” Well, he could, but it would do him little good if he was about to be sacrificed and roasted as a celebratory meal (no kidding).

It’s exactly how an alcoholic might feel. Or a drug addict. Or anyone harried by any habit they just cannot shed.

Here’s the poem:


“Besides, Little Goat, You Can’t Just Go Asking for Mercy”
by Kaveh Akbar

Besides, little goat, you can’t just go asking for mercy.
With a body like that, it’s easy to forget

about the spirit—the sun unfolding over your coat, your throat
too elegant for prayer. I like it fine, this daily struggle

to not die, to not drink or smoke or snort anything
that might return me to combustibility. Historical problem:

it’s harder than you’d think to burn even what’s flammable.
Once I charged into your body and invented breath. Or,

I stumbled into your mouth and found you breathing. When I left,
I left a lozenge of molten ore on your tongue. Stony grain-pounder,

sleepy pattern-locator, do this: cover your wings, trust
the earth, spread your genes. Nothing here is owned. The ladder

you’re looking for starts not on the ground but several feet below it.