Theory of Numbnes

“Behold the absence of grief on my face.”

—Kaveh Akbar


I wonder how much loss it takes to hollow a heart. 

Everything I tie to the twigs in my chest is falling,

withering to dust. Last time, it was a friend. The 

car loved her body so much, it chose to souvenir 

the blood. Today, another friend. This one, haunted 

boy, invented his own exit, washed the poison of 

breath clean from his lungs. I say a prayer for each

loss. I say it not with words, but with my silence. 

This erases the problem of language. Every god 

understands the absence of sound. It is a fluency. 

I look up to heaven, reciting the common tongue:

native dialect of nothing. After I pray for my dead, 

I go back wondering what new catastrophe seeks 

me. What more will death sickle away from my 

heart? Ravenous wolf made only of teeth. Rend, 

devourer, till I have nothing to be taken. This time, 

I wait for the absolute. Not the mere pang of the 

heart, but the spear that shreds it. There is a theory 

of numbness. According to it, too much loss will 

crystallise your tears. Perhaps it has begun: I try to 

mourn & my eyes only clatter. Behold the absence 

of grief on my face. The tears, no longer whetting

my cheeks. I have become sorrow’s good artifice—

ergo, I hide it well. Behind this mask is not a face 

weeping. Behind this mask is a hand holding it. 


What are you looking for?