Oscar Silverman Reading at the State University

My mind went seven places at once.
Robert Hass, “Consciousness” from Time and Materials (Harper, 2007)

Waiting, my mind went seven places at once.
Next to me, Preeble quietly ignited an imaginary
cigar, and began to speak enthusiastically like the old
times I would rather forget. I’ll just zone out unless
you want to talk, he said insincerely, his words
already making rings around his head.
Silence was impossible under the circumstances.
I wouldn’t dream of it, I replied. Enough talk to come
to suffice my taste for talk, I said. Just wanted to say
one thing, he said beseechingly. You would think
he would have done what he said he would do
since he’s retired and has all the time in the world
to do what he said he would do. He has not even
taken the time to rid himself of those riotous ties he
used to wear. I think he has less hair. Could be
age or cancer. I don’t know which. But I hear
he can’t write his way out of a wet paper bag anymore
or about his wife sadly. Unspeakable. It’s the point,
isn’t it? The pen of nonexistence writing a life in invisible ink.
The consciousness of a parsnip gone wrong
in a cabbage patch invades us all, I think.

Published in Le Mot, 2014.