2 December 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 4

René Descartes Approaches His Reflection


Suppose you're me, for just a minute—that's what I'm asking you to do—, just suppose for a minute that you're me, and ask yourself what it is you want to hear, because that's what I want, to have you listen, to have you hear like it mattered to you, like I was you telling you what you already knew, or had forgotten, or had tried to forget. Pretend I said it, whatever it is, just pretend you heard it just now and your pulse jumped and your groin tightened and you did that little manic swallow. Pretend you heard it, and it hurt you, and it felt like you'd been opened up and laid out for display. You're violated by what I know of you, what you know of yourself—supposing you're me—and everything is too small, your clothes fit too tight, and the air is chill, your fear steaming with your breath. Suppose I took you apart and left you that way, and tell me—really tell me—that you wouldn't fall in love with me.


The roots of the old tree had cracked the foundation of the house—a shitty old place anyway—, but the roots were thick and the concrete was jigsawed and crumbled. Quite a job, that one, to mine those roots from that stony ground. The trick is to try to do good in an already hopeless situation. Now suppose you're me, and I'm looking at you, thinking this. The tools are old, but they're sharp. Anyway, the old tree must go.


Impossible to doubt me, speaking to you here, though you know I don't exist. Try to picture me. Describe me. I'm nothing but the weight that pulls at the back of your eyes. I'm weightless. Listen, you can't even hear me.


The hand that holds the pen and the hand that holds the plow. All the same to me. Not my hand, anyway. Or my hand, but not me. May as well be yours. Take it. Dig us a way out, if you can. The pen or the plow? Or the ditch we look up from, thick roots bleeding sap, sky flashing above us, the cold cold smell of the new-clawed earth. Just try to stand. It's far from deep, this ditch. But try to stand. Or move your hand. Or mine.


I believe you. I take you on faith. For all I know you're already gone. White sheet against white sheet, that's a darkness I couldn't possibly see out of. It's only that you're just less than factual. One cannot observe fact. One digests and excretes it. You, dear friend, are a phantom vapor, a touch of gas, a piece of meat unshat. You trouble me a little, but you listen to me speak. That's a taste I savor. And so, I thank you.

About the author:

Josh Hanson is a graduate of the University of Montana Writing Program and currently lives in Humboldt County, California with his wife and two daughters. Recently, his manuscript was named first runner-up in the Anadiosis Press Chapbook Contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Diagram, Stirring, Three Candles, Rock Salt Plum, Ginbender, Megaera, and others. He can be reached online at geocities.com/jhanson_poetry or .

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 4, No. 4, where "René Descartes Approaches His Reflection" ran on December 2, 2004. List other work with these same labels: poetry, prose poem.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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