de rerum natura and I realized I was the pieces I was picking up, all scattered across the floor, all technicolor fragments of static jettisons from far away; I am a farmer in Kansas. I am a doctor in Nairobi. I am a prisoner in Beijing and a pilot in Lahore and a fisherman off the coast of Jeju Island; the saltwater pulls at them with its ebb tide but all the same the lines on my hands are not ones that can be washed away
love in lost time I shot Proust dead in an alleyway on my way home from work. It was something he said it was love is a reciprocal torture his body hit the pavement with a thud. It started raining on my walk home and I told the man I loved that I wanted to move to Iceland when I stepped through the door. He wasn’t really there though so point for Proust I guess, although it won’t do him much good. In another life I imagine I wake up on the shore someplace beautiful like Reykjavik and my love pulls me to my feet but that’s not this life is some conjured up nonsense that we all share, together and always, where it rains.
devotions as the weathered breath of ocean’s scraping bow, icy fingers darting minnows places no soul would set their foot but to sink // my love pulls me down through rush and stream, weaving me through tides and reeds, look quick she has two eyes // one the moon, the other is reflected in the sea. This is no ritual, my drowning. There is no altar, no stained-glass reverie. This is a duet.
the world in a steamboat seems unfair down here, she said this technicolor hell, this twostep dance where every sway, every thought is wrung out and wrung dry and left wrinkled and damp like a rag sizzling away on the old radiator so I say I say I say this world is scribbled up, left to stain in a pool of its chapped prophetic ink --portrait of a pen beside a pot of tea
Variations on the Trolley Problem: 1. A trolley is approaching a fork in the tracks. If you do nothing, five people tied down to the track in front of the trolley will die. If you pull the lever in front of you, the trolley will change tracks, and only one person, who is tied down to the other track, will die. What do you do? 2. A trolley is approaching a fork in the tracks. If you do nothing, five people tied down to the track in front of the trolley will die. If you pull the lever in front of you, the trolley will change tracks, and your brother, who is tied down to the other track, will die. What do you do? 3. A trolley is approaching a fork in the tracks, and you are walking around town with your brother. He’s telling you about some tv show on Netflix that he says you have to watch, but you know you’re never going to watch it. You have a splitting headache and he won’t stop talking, and you think about throwing him onto the tracks beside you as the trolley approaches. You do nothing. 4. A trolley is approaching a fork in the tracks. If you do nothing, five people tied down to the track in front of the trolley will die. If you pull the lever in front of you and change the trolley’s course, you will be condemned to live in a world where advocates of peace and compassion—people like Martin Luther King Jr., Viola Liuzzo, Robert Kennedy, John Lennon, and Jesus Christ—are murdered in cold blood for their devotion to empathy and kindness. 5. Looking closely, you see that the five people tied down to the track in front of the trolley are: Martin Luther King Jr., Viola Liuzzo, Robert Kennedy, John Lennon, and Jesus Christ. 6. You are driving a trolley toward a fork in the tracks. If you do nothing, your very sense of self and identity will disappear, and you will become a hollow shell of who you are—who you once were—as you spend empty eternities rolling across the countryside in your trolley. Your brother is somewhere up ahead, waiting by a lever beside the tracks. If you signal for him to pull the lever, he will derail the trolley, and you will die. What do you do? 7. A trolley is approaching a fork in the tracks. In thirty years’ time, climate change will have made the earth uninhabitable. 8. You think about throwing yourself onto the tracks. You think about how many plastic straws that would save from the lungs of sea turtles or whatever. A conglomerate of billionaires owns the trolley. 9. You are lying on the tracks where, in about a minute, a trolley will run you over and kill you. 10. You think about your life. You think about how, objectively, everything is completely fine. A-OK. And yet, at the same time, some part of you never thought that you would make it this far—that you wouldn’t live to see twenty-one—and all you want to do is cut off all your hair and scream and throw yourself into the ocean. There was a spark in you that you lost somewhere along the way, and you know you’ll spend the rest of your life looking for it, even if it kills you. Or maybe you won’t look for it—that’s what you’re afraid of most. The not looking. You wonder if that spark is under the trolley. You know it’s not. 11. The world has gone to absolute hell. In thirty seconds, the trolley will run you over. 12. You know that pessimism in the face of evil is complicity. 13. There is no fork in the tracks. 14. What do you do?
JP Mayer is an emerging writer and a current senior at Brown University, where he studies classics and literary arts. JP works as an editor for the Brown Classical Journal, a student-run publication based at Brown University, and he has also worked as a writing tutor for high school students. His poems “eros” and “retrospect” were both published this past September in The Blue Nib and Better Than Starbucks Magazine respectively. He is from Boston, Massachusetts. This is his first time in Fictional Cafe.