Tiny Takes | Portrait of the Alcoholic, by Kaveh Akbar

The urgency: Trying to stay alive til morning, desperation, forgetting your language, being remembered as better than you are.

How I felt reading it: Like praying, then forgetting who you are praying to, realizing you are at a party, that it is over and you don’t recognize anyone, but you are still flush with the pleasure and longing, and the prayer catches in your throat, half there.

Where I read it: On my couch while my baby slept, listening to thunderstorms on repeat to keep him sleeping.

Lines that destroyed me: Half destroyed me and half were life-giving. Here are some of my deepest swoons:

after thirty years in America my father now dreams in English / says he misses the dead relatives he used to be able to visit in sleep / how many times are you allowed to lose the same beloveds / before you stop believing they’re gone / some migrant birds build their nests over rivers / to push them into the water when they leave       this seems / almost warm      a good harm       the addictions / that were killing me fastest were the ones I loved best

– from “Unburnable the Cold is Flooding Our Lives”

a month ago they dragged / up a drowned tourist     his bloatwhite belly was filled with radishes and / lamb shank    his entire digestive system was a tiny museum of pleasure / compared to him I am healthy and unremarkable

– from “Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient)”

as a boy I stole a mint green bra / from a laundromat       I took it home to try on / while my parents slept       filled its cups with the smallest / turnips in our pantry”

from “Portrait of the Alcoholic Floating in Space with Severed Umbilicus”

Gif that describes this book:


Pairs well with: Anything quenching, “Epic Thunder & Rain”, omens, kind cats, forgiveness, Calling a Wolf a Wolf (pre order!)

The final word: I was so struck by the tender way these poems look outside at other people, almost apologetic that they’ve had to cross paths, and yet bathed with all of the love that is pure, focussed, attention. A blonde boy in a pond, a girl who know’s every bird’s Latin name, a murdered saint, a father who looks like a “photograph of a famous ghost.”

Buy it here <3



Ann Ward is Senior Poetry Editor of Cosmonauts Avenue and Co-Curator of Springhouse Magazine. For 8 years she helped run the Summer Literary Seminars in Kenya, Lithuania, and Montreal. Her work has appeared most recently in Washington Square Review, GlitterMob, Stroboscope, Matrix Magazine, and CV2. Originally from Kingston, Ontario, Ann is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at UMass Amherst.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]