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“The Questioners” and “A Clean and Happy Home”

By Jason Abbate

The Questioners

Sometimes I have a question

that I want to ask my father.

But I can’t ask him anymore.

Therefore, some Greek philosophers

would say, I don’t actually have

a question. Therefore, some

French philosophers would say,

I’m not actually a questioner.

If I ruled the world,

the one law I would insist on

is that everyone would have to wear

a shirt printed with the word “death”

or the word “pain”,

declaring the thing

they feared the most.

With their fears

no longer nameless,

people would gradually

climb out of their bunkers

and start talking

about what lies

in front of them.

When you bumped into someone

outside of a restaurant or a drug store,

you would know everything you needed

to know.

Soon people would forget

what the old world had been like,

how everyone had known

that everyone else

feared something as badly as they did

but couldn’t imagine what it was.


people would stop

feeling liberated, their shoulders

would grow heavy and they

would depose me as their ruler.

When they dragged me before

their tribunal, a poet at the far

end of a table would describe

how much suffering I had

caused. A German philosopher

would testify that I had willed

everything that happened,

even the parallel lives

that had sprung up

outside of the restaurants

and the drug stores.

During the final week,

I will tell reporters

that I had planned it

this way all along

but it won’t be true.

If I could go backwards,

I wouldn’t let anyone believe

that they had a right

to their origin stories,

to fall in love

with the way

they thought

things were.

What I hadn’t seen

was that every

crumpled figure passing

through a drug store

orbits its own private star,

performs its own alchemy

to turn fears into names,

practices its own

untidy language

for the things

that will

never be asked.


A Clean and Happy Home

In the middle of a debate

about the mechanics of

removing dirt from windowsills,

a blue spider, more body than legs,

interrupted the proceedings to announce:

“You’re just like me, your desk

is filled with notes and notes

about what the world would be like

if was peopled with more versions of yourself.

But your scribbles won’t save you,

your collections won’t set you free.”

What else would a blue spider to say after a life

spent haunting your windowsills, trapping and

slaughtering bodies while you whisper at the sky?

It turns out that you can’t scrub the stains from your world.

You need your fingers to splinter and crackle in the dust,

you need one hand to laugh at the darkness,

another to plunge through your monsters—

some big, bit mostly, mostly small.


About the Author

Jason Abbate lives and writes in New York City. His work has been included in publications such as Red Rock Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Collidescope and Subprimal. He is the author of Welcome to Xooxville. 


Poetry, The River

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