By Jason Abbate
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
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
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
for the things
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.