“Some things are lacking.”

A favorite poem that I can’t stop re-reading by a new favorite poet. “Desunt Nonnula” by Kaveh Akbar. (copied and pasted from Bennington Review)

If you haven’t read Calling A Wolf A Wolf… Do yourself a favor and read it!

Desunt Nonnula means “some things are lacking.” It was the last line in a “continuous” poem written by Christopher Marlowe in 1598 and there was some argument between publishers whether or not this 800+ line poem should be considered a “finished” work or not; whether or not to ignore Marlowe’s “desunt nonnula.”

The particular attention to small, material items (crayons, trophies) as well as both a figurative and literal reference to lacking, “hunger” and “absence,” give this poem a particularly lonely feel.

Happy reading 🙂

http://www.benningtonreview.org/akbar/

Kaveh Akbar

DESUNT NONNULLA

as a child I wasn’t so much foreign as I was very small      my soul 
still unsmogged by its station      I walked learning 
the names of things each new title a tiny seizure 
of joy      paleontologist tarpaper marshmallow      I polished them like trophies
eager in delight and colorblind      though I still loved crayons 
for their names cerulean gunmetal and corn- 
flower more than making up for the hues I couldn’t tell apart      even 
our great-grandparents saw different blues owing 
to the rapid evolution of rods and cones      now I resist 
acknowledging the riches I’ve inherited      hard bones and a mind full 
of names      it’s so much easier to catalog hunger to atomize 
absence and carry each bit like ants taking home a meal

I am insatiable      every grievance levied against me 
amounts to ingratitude      I need to be broken like an unruly mustang 
like bitten skin      supposedly people hymned before names      their mouths 
were zeroes little pleasure portals for taking in grape 
leaves cloudberries the fingers of lovers      today words fly 
in all directions      I don’t know how anyone does 
anything      I miss my mouth sipping coffee and spend 
the day explaining the dribble to strangers who patiently 
endure my argle-bargle before returning 
to their appetites      I am not a slow learner      I am a quick forgetter      
such erasing makes you voracious      if you teach me something 
beautiful      I will name it quickly before it floats away


KAVEH AKBAR founded and edits Divedapper. His poems are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Narrative, Pleiades, and elsewhere.

One Comment

  1. stephanielharper

    Thanks for sharing this one, Lily! It’s powerful, indeed!

    Of all things we can find ourselves hungering for in this life as a result of our existential lacking (which is, at least sometimes, synonymous with being human), I agree with Kaveh that none is so substantive, empowering, and (as far as addictions are concerned) productive as a hit of poetry — of apprehending, naming, and thus owning a moment of beauty, even as it necessarily slips away… Keats was right, I think, in his estimation that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”

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