The following poem evokes AA’s fourth step (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”) and the gravity of apologies. This is from Kaveh Akbar’s chapbook/collection, Portrait of the Alcoholic.
Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila)
“I know scarcely one feature by which man can be distinguished from apes, if it be not that all the apes have a gap between their fangs and their other teeth.”
– Carolus Linnaeus
A gap, then,
a slot for fare.
I used my arms to learn two,
my fingers to learn ten.
My grandfather kept an atlas so old
there was a blank spot in the middle of Africa.
I knew a girl who knew every bird’s Latin name.
I kissed her near a polluted river
and would have been fine
dying right there,
but nature makes no such jumps.
then the next. America
is filled with wooden churches
in which I have never been baptized.
I try not to think of God as a debt to luck
but for years I consumed nothing
that did not harm me
and still I lived, witless
as a bird flying over state lines.
I would be more grateful
if being alive hadn’t seemed so effortless,
the way I’d appreciate gravity more
if I’d had trouble floating in my teens.
Still, I apologize.
My straight white teeth have yellowed
and I can’t tell a crow from a blackbird.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
This may be me at my best.