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Taken by a Sudden Fear

Benjamin S. Grossberg

I rush home. Rags soaked in paint thinner lay

atop a half-finished bookcase. Did the cat

nuzzle them? The insufficiently navigated line

between unlikely and impossible. My father

sends an email: Call when you get this.

What good can follow? In one episode

of the Twilight Zone, a phone line falls across

a grave, sparking inside the earth. Miles away,

a widower’s phone rings. Then mine does: This

is Steve’s friend; he’s been in an accident. Between

too awful to contemplate and too awful not to:

twice I ask is he okay? after Amy promises

he is. I exhale into the receiver. An implosion

leapt lightly across, a chasm miles deep,

inches wide. But as if a letter I’d been carrying

had slipped from my pocket into its

occluded depth. Taken by a sudden fear,

I feel the air of my bedroom

turn sepulchral. My body temperature

plummeting, the cat springs away. What

could they have, my parents, but faith

that, side by side underground, bodies

can know and gain by fellowship? In an era

of cellphones, angels indistinguishable

from contrails engulf a satellite. Closets gape

like mouths. Between can’t happen

and must. I’d have a man here if I could,

perhaps, in a lucid moment, begging him not

to pass in his sleep, for fear of finding myself back

in the space I currently occupy. How awful

to be left alone with a body—like a mortician

working late—especially if that body’s your own.

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