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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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