“Reading Farrokhzad in a Pandemic”

A Poem by Kaveh Akbar, from Pilgrim Bell

January 4, 2021  By Kaveh Akbar

The title is a lie;
I can’t read Farsi.

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‎ما هر چه را که باید از دست داده باشیم از دست داده ایم

I can make out:

“we lose,
we lose.”

I type it into a translation app:
“we have lost everything we need to lose.”

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In between what I read and what is written:
“need,” “everything.”


Here, the waving flag.
Here, the other world.

Because we need mail, people die.


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Because we need groceries, people die.

I write “we need”
knowing we dilutes


my responsibility,
like watercolors dipped

in a fast river.
Get behind me, English.

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When I text
ما هر چه را که باید از دست داده باشیم از دست داده ایم

to my dad he writes back,
“we have lost whatever we had to lose.”


Whatever we

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People die because they look like him.
My uncle jailed, his daughter killed.


This a real fact too wretched for
letters. And yet:

My uncle jailed.


His daughter killed.

Waving world,
the other flag—

there is room in the language for being
without language.


So much of wet is cold.
So much of diamond is light.


I want both my countries
to be right

to fear me.

We have lost

we had to lose.


From Pilgrim Bell: Poems by Kaveh Akbar. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press. Copyright © 2020 by Kaveh Akbar.

Kaveh Akbar
Kaveh Akbar
Kaveh Akbar is the author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf and the forthcoming collection Pilgrim Bell. He is also the editor of a forthcoming anthology The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse. He is the poetry editor at The Nation, and teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College and Warren Wilson.

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