John Allman

Final State

It’s not what you did in the third grade exactly—reciting theory and shepherd letter by letter in the class spelling bee—arriving at the word beyond any doubt, or even going backwards in what later you’d call heuristic, as if by being undone all things had their beginning, because it’s all reversible. Until the newborn cries, the small lungs flutter in the never-before air, the clutched red hands grasp a collapsed idea, an untouchable flow. A mother’s milk the taste that appears before the tongue is aware, itself an arrival where all necessary things tend like a first word, the hand wiping the fogged window, the sudden screel of car brakes on a cold morning. All this cause. All this shoulder-to-shoulder advance. All this strung language.


Of course there must be an object. The sugar bowl on the table, the blood-stained Band Aid. The bad tooth, the broken crown, the recurring cyst on the lumbar spine. The spiral notebook with no entry since your brother died. All of it you decided: neglect, inattention, ignorance, who cares, it’s your doing. You breathe, you do. Think of the Ouija board, how it takes two unmatched hands, two lives to seek a third, the missing loved one, the long-haired child, the drunken wife, who you must have driven away, while another partnering hand steers always your direction. Lying awake all night doesn’t bring you to a zero state. Turn down a dark lane, shut off the engine, the last of twilight still burns a hole through clouds, the mawkish music on the local station all but anesthetic, the singer’s final word deny.


Look at the odds. Wear a blindfold, reach for the glass, you’ll be close enough. What’s a bit of slosh. What’s a damp thigh compared to the dry stick always in the dry hand. The same struck surface bruising to the mind’s anger to get it right. As if we’re here by chance, some peakéd neuron coughing up its DNA, spewing a very odd feeling into being. Pain. Shuddering joy. And we move along that edge, fingers trailing along the handrail, the sea below at times too much to resist. Who would know? It’s all might-as-well. Or what the fuck. You wouldn’t poke a finger in your eye, but that hole in the ground right there where light is coming through, you might whistle down it, take a good long look, lower a string, put your index finger in up to its hilt.

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter