Feature: Issue No. 7, Winter 2013

Gethsemane
David R. Cravens

so much depends on cold plums
and red wheelbarrows
that often I forget
about algorithms and Turing machines
Errol Morris and Desmond
and the noise of colored prayer flags
beaten by the wind
at the summit of Everest

I look down
to the clear voice of a child
“she has a brown face and brown arms”
the girl tells me
“and she’s waiting for you there”

I want to tell her I’m grateful for her honesty
and ask if she means on the mountain
but sensing an opportunity
I ask what haystacks have to do with relativity

“doesn’t matter” she answers
“what matters is she’s there”

I close my eyes and shake my head
but cannot wake
and

remembering that aged couple, buried in ash
(and frozen in time)
the old man hugging his wife to his side
and shielding her with his toga
I wish to ask: “how much blood
Primus Pilus did you spill for Rome?”
but I look instead to the ground
and follow the penises
carved in ancient cobblestone

perhaps I’m a soldier
for I remember running down a frozen river
set in a Currier & Ives landscape
except that I wasn’t skating
but trying to kill a man

when I reach the Lupanar
I throw a purse of silver
at the doorman
after he tells me (in German) to leave

the ground begins to shake
and the sky darken
but I’m not afraid

for the part of my mind that doesn’t sleep
that vigilant part
(the little man at the levers
I call him)

knows that Vesuvius isn’t in Germany
and tells me so
“my god” he asks
“what would Freud have thought of you?”
“you mean what will he think of me
of us” I reply

“two thousand years from now
people will pay men like him
whole salaries
for what I can get rubbing oil
into the back of a Gaul slave-whore
for a few of Caesar’s coins”

this makes me think of European porn

and how loud they are
for I can hear them through the stone wall

“it’s probably your neighbors”
he says
for I live in a small apartment
with thin walls
and no…
they’re not Europeans
but exceptions proving the rule

Americans are quiet, I think
even when they fuck—
a cultural gift from the Indians
according to Robert Pirsig

yes – there’s a quiet continent, I suddenly remember
“we’ll go there” I say
“we’ll go there and we’ll look west through darkness
and we’ll remember that Plato said the soul was a circle
and we’ll find the three graves
with headless chickens thrashing about them
in fountains of blood
and we’ll find the Indian who said all things are trying to be round—
he’ll tell us what all this means
he’ll tell us who lie in the graves
and why the birds won’t allow their freedom”

then it occurs to me…

inorganic – biological – social – intellectual

rock – paper – scissors; with a fourth dimension

yes – that’s it

it too was along these lines that Einstein thought
so few footnotes they said—
so few

“but you are not Einstein” he reminds me

and I want to find someone
and take them by the shoulders
and tell them about the internet
I will be a god
immortal
written about
sung about

“no” he says “you will be crucified”


David R. Cravens received his undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Missouri and his master’s degree in English literature from Southeast Missouri State University. He was the recipient of the 2008 Saint Petersburg Review Prize in Poetry, the 2011 Bedford Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for Ohio State University’s The Journal William Allen Creative Nonfiction Contest. His work has also appeared in Ontologica: A Journal of Art and Thought, EarthSpeak Magazine, The Houston Literary Review, Albatross Poetry Journal, The Monarch Review, The Interpreter’s House, Willows Wept Review, The New Writer Magazine, The Penmen Review, Poetic Diversity, Red River Review, Liturgical Credo, The Fat City Review, and is forthcoming in Mirror Dance, Fickle Muses, and War, Literature & the Arts. He teaches composition and literature at Mineral Area College.

  • Sara Cleto

    Wonderful, surprising, and captivating poem!