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by Brian S. Ellis

The first time you made a wish
and it didn’t happen you didn’t remember
but then there was the second time.
The third, the ninth; twenty-seventh,
fifty-fourth, eighty-first.
You blame yourself, think:
did the wish wrong did the wish wrong
Told someone. Didn’t knock on wood.
Throw salt. Turn three times in a circle,
howl at the moon, drink piss,
slice open your palm and let the hot blood out.
But that didn’t do anything, either.
So the methodology becomes the opposite.
Since nothing that you wanted happened,
you start thinking of things
you don’t want to happen.
You imagine getting cancer every day.
You imagine getting assaulted,
the apartment burning. You have to.

If you don’t think of the things
you don’t want to happen, they will.
If you don’t think of the bus flipping over,
then the bus might flip over,
and then you’d have all these people’s blood on your hands.
Stadium stampede. Active shooter situation.
Pacific Subduction Zone.
Live the rest of your life
from one worst case to another.
All the time with worse and worse cases,
this is the world we live in.
And also, all the time keeping your intention
for thinking of these worst-case scenarios
hidden from yourself. Because what is intention
if not another kind of wish?
So while you’re thinking of the flood
in order to keep the flood from happening,
you can’t think of the fact that the reason you’re
thinking of the flood is to keep it from happening
because that would undo all of your attempts
to undo this worst-case scenario.

Don’t think the desire.
Hold in the sneeze.
Tangled in the double helix of will.
You can’t even stop your hiccups.
Inside, a rat’s nest of wishes and anti-wishes,
hidden packets of grand designs, double blinds
of pessimistic positive confirmation bias concealing
optimistic hopes and buried loves you refuse to become
the type of person who could even learn to feel
enough to touch.
What an enemy
I have become.
Able somehow
to control the universe
but not
for some reason


Read our interview Brian S. Ellis in this issue here.

Brian Stephen Ellis is the author of four collections of poetry, Uncontrolled Experiments in Freedom (2008) and Yesterday Won’t Goodbye (2011) from Write Bloody Books as well as American Dust Revisited (2013) and Often Go Awry (2015) from University of Hell Press. In addition to the collection of short fiction Pretty Much the Last Hardcore Kid in This Town (2023) from Alien Buddha Press. In 2014 he became the recipient of the William Stafford Centennial War No More Award. He lives in Portland Ore.