On “Gloves” by Kaveh Akbar
“How long can you speak. / Without / inhaling. How long. / Can you inhale without. / Bursting apart. History is wagging. / Its ass at us. Twirling in its silver. / Cape” these are the opening lines of the poem “Gloves” by Kaveh Akbar. This poem is a story of a soldier’s relationship to war and the idea of war. This poem brings us through what war has done to him and how it has affected him. This poem is about how wars can affect us, make us do things we regret, and never teach us a lesson. It also focusses on the why and how wars break out. The first few lines describe the energy and hate that surrounds people. How much more frustration and how many more problems can we take until we finally erupt like we have in the past. The line, “History is wagging. / Its ass at us. Twirling in its silver. / Cape”, describes how history is mocking us. The personification of history helps to illustrate what Akbar is trying to explain. History fails to understand how people have not learned from what as happened in past years. Because of how people fail to realize when history is repeating itself, they are never in time to stop it from doing so.
The narrator of the poem is a soldier. The lines, “I want to kiss. / Your scalp. I want you to kiss.”, show how he has experienced war and has made connections to people who have died. This line is an allusion to a following line at the end of the poem where he is bent over his friend while he is passing. The metaphor, “Can you see the wet. / Azalea quivering. / On its vine. Its ripening Dread.” is referencing back to the opening lines. An Azalea is a type of flower. “Ripening dread” means that the flower is so close to blooming, but when it does it will bloom with destruction and war. This is an example of how the soldier is frustrated that every one fails to realize what is to come. He knows when it does, he will be right in the bloody heart of it.
In the following lines the narrator says that when war comes, as it so often does, He is willing to risk his life because to him, that is the only life he knows. “Doing. / One thing is a way. / Of not doing everything else. / Today I answer only. / To my war name. Wise. / Salt” when he his in war it is an escape for him. He has been brainwashed to fight and forget. It is even more evident when the narrator says he only answers to his war name, Wise Salt, this proves how he has left his old life and so because he is afraid to face his fears internally, like losing a friend, he faces everyone else’s fears through battle.
So many people. / Have been awful to you. / I’ve given each one. / A number. When you’re ready. / I will ask you to draw me. / Their hands. These are the last few lines of the poem. I think these lines are what is said to the narrator’s friend who is passing. This is because he is claiming that so many people have been cruel to him and the narrator is saying that he will kill them to seek vengeance and closure for his friend. This is how war affected him making him do inhumane things like murder, even if he thought he was doing it for a good reason.
While studying this poem I really was looking for what story the poet was writing. The poem takes you through different sections. One is how war starts and why it breaks out. This is shown in the first few lines where Akbar is using the metaphor of breath and inhalation. I really wanted to break apart the metaphors and try to understand what they meant. I did this when I wrote about the azalea blooming with dread. An important part of the story and poem is the fact that even though he has seen someone close to him die from battle, he is still willing to go back into the battlefield and risk his life. The last metaphor is incredibly chilling. It is the narrator saying to his friend, I know who hurt you and when you are ready I will kill them to avenge you.
Akbar, Kaveh. “Gloves by Kaveh Akbar.” Poetry Foundation , Poetry Foundation,