Janos Kirkpatrick


I can’t even stand anymore. My knees, my legs have been hobbled. Who did that, I ask? Was it the limb from the oak that fell in my sleep last night? Was it the fence that caught the thistle growing up through its wire mesh? Was it the truck’s plow waiting to push away the blowing winter, soon to come? The coffee beans I had ground and ground by hand are all wasted, too. Used, but now wasted. That is how things go, I suppose. The sodden discard seems to outweigh the use. The driftwood in the lake so much heavier than the forest from which it all came. When my own breath became short, I had to also look around. There was no lack of air, nor occlusion of space, no crushing infinity closing in on me. What was it, I had asked myself once. What is it, I must ask myself again. The well I had depended on to bring me water still worked. The roof I had counted on still kept me free from rain. The garden I trusted would bear me food, still did. I had only to swallow, once or twice, and accept that a kiss upon a man far greater than I had been, had betrayed me, exposed me as being rather soft, and rather gentle. It was especially hard because this had occurred just as my good arm had been reaching out again, and the blow came from a fallen angel, and she struck without grace and without mercy.

Mallory McGiven

I had been lying in bed blue and depressed. Even the pills did nothing. They didn’t make me sleep. Just even more immobilized. And that had made things even worse. The ruffled hawk feather from the dirt hills of Arizona. The bar of hand-poured silver from Eureka. The smooth Petoskey stone from the shore of Lake Michigan. Stashed away. In a shoebox. In another shoebox. All the other shoeboxes. I had had an entire row once that had been thrown away. Automatically. Even those. Hopeless. And even his colorful striped woolen blanket. Folded and dumped in the curbside dumpster. Even my notebooks. Dumped out in the same dumpster. Even there I could not bear witness to, bear to read my own testimonies. My self-deception. Amazing! The one! In love! At last! The same thing. Ad nauseam. Depressing. Even my own confidences with myself had been wistful inventions of the imagination mostly. Mostly like pretty, colorful decals a little girl had once pressed onto square glass bedroom windowpanes to make herself feel better about her grimly lived life—there’s a rainbow! there’s a unicorn! there’s a windmill! there’s a four leaf clover! there’s a smiling sun! Imagined. Made up. Pretty. Make believe. I had disconnected the landline, blocked my cell, same for any messages. I had lain in the lavender oil bathwater and had remembered how beastly he had been, crouching on his elbows lapping up water with his tongue by the lake, who had, it seemed, completely loved me from his ruined castle which love I had not I felt, dozing eventually into oblivion, nor had I accepted had been my own before I had completely slipped away myself.

This Graceful Suspension Of The World

keys and lock

He had a secret wife once whose marriage to they nobody told. Even when her family all journeyed on a five-day ocean cruise together to celebrate her maternal grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary, the husband in name, he stayed at home. That’s how secret she was. Once, another time, she had returned from taking exams upstate. And the exam she took was computerized (not on paper), and while she took it, it learned her learning rate. It gave her very quickly, she told him afterwards, more and more difficult problems to solve, and each ‘one more’ difficult problem submitted on the screen to her, she got right. The testing program recalculated itself, and, with the secret wife’s having rapidly solved correctly such difficult problems as which the program could ever propose, it released her from the testing grounds in twenty minutes with an “800”—a perfect score. Almost ninety minutes had been shaved off her testing time, her sitting time, her being there. That’s how time and testing and the algorithms had worked.

The spatial reasoning his brilliant secret wife could perform with ease at astronomical rates of speed is not the way, in general, anything else works in life. The massive hero Ajax, for instance, that great, lumbering Greek warrior, battles and battles everyday, fighting off the Trojans. And before he rejoins the battle, Achilles sulks in his tent for months, unable to convince Agamemnon to give him back Briseis, his war booty, in all that time. And who can really tell how long, how many decades and years of accident and misfortune, how much lasting grief it will take and all the many dead there will be when spacecraft really do fly and land to colonize the desiccated, lifeless planet Mars.

Today an argument could verily be made that the man who’d had that secret wife long ago, far away, is one day close to his death. His wits are down. His love forsakes him. His cat is gone. His cupboard in nearly bare. His pile of winter wood is wet. For him, all the world’s diseases and sicknesses and misfortunes have fled buzzing like flies into the air. The only saving grace the world has ever known, however, is not “hope”—that miscreant’s negative creed of dissatisfaction, of being against the way reality actually is—but “anticipation”—which, though syllabically awkward, is the better translation of the Greek word “elpis,” of what actually remained in Pandora’s opened picnic basket. It means to simply wait for, and to be able to wait for, the next thing to come. And that, the love-broken man knew, trembling in fear asleep and living in a perfect equation of anxiety awake, by the multitudes of stars which over the span of all eternity shall have opened their eyes at night and closed them during the day, was all there ever was.

The Men I Knew

mediterranean boats 2

The man I knew was the man who tied himself to a tree. The other man I knew was the man who tied himself against a post. The first man had cried to all the heavens for his many crimes. They were crimes against the State, crimes against the people of the State, and crimes against the gods of the State. For these he put himself to death. As for the other man, he cried a cry against concupiscence, beauty, and the love of women alike. He wailed night and day; so bad was this, he had plugged up his own ears with wax lest he go entirely mad with his painful ecstasy. Later still, the very people the first man was claimed to have committed his crimes against, they had raised a statue of him lasting close to three thousand years, during which time they themselves committed all the same crimes for which he had punished himself, for no apparent reason among them all for having committed them. Why they committed them, no one could easily say. Some said it was for greed. Some said it was for pleasure. Some said it was for bodily desires. The second man became a legend of fortitude, cunning, perseverance, and strength. Indeed, when he returned to his tiny home near the shore, he was spat upon by his own true wife due to his dog-faced disguise. As for the first, his merciless end seems only to have obviated everlasting punishment, an infliction upon the venal soul of Mankind, so much of whose strange solace seems to be casting all hope into a steaming bucket of tar.