“The Palace” is a long poem by Kaveh Akbar that was published in The New Yorker in April. I hope to be able to link to it through the blog, but if that doesn’t work, I highly recommend you google it and find it on The New Yorker’s website, where it is accompanied by some brilliant illustrations.
I read “The Palace” a week or so after it was published, after hearing about it on a podcast. I have been thinking about it, on some level or another, since then. I have read it several times – certain sections of it many many times. I think it is remarkable. I don’t want to attempt to analyze or criticize the poem too much here, but I will briefly explain why I think it’s relevant. “The Palace” is a poem about America , and what America means in a global community that simultaneously has more promise than ever before, and is more perilously fraught than ever before. I think it’s also about poetry itself, which is magnificent, but that’s not why it belongs here. Akbar was born in Iran, and his family immigrated to the United States when he was young. He sees America as a land of opportunity, and a land where people spew hatred. A place where he loves and is loved, and a place where he is somehow separated.
I think the poem captures how vitally important America can be in shaping the future of globalism, for better or worse.
I really hesitate to describe or summarize the poem any further. I may have already done too much. It stands for itself.
Here are some small excerpts, but please read the whole thing if you can:
To be an American is to be a scholar
Every orange I eat disappears the million
peaches, plums, pears I could have eaten
In heaven, opportunity costs.
In her heaven
my mother grows
peaches, plums, pears, and I eat them till I pass out
A boy’s shirt says: “We Did It To Hiroshima, We Can Do It To Tehran!”
He is asked to turn his shirt inside out.
He is asked? His insides, out.
After he complies, his parents sue the school district.
Our souls want to know
how they were made,
what is owed.
These parents want their boy
to want to melt my family,
and I live among them.