The Modernist Short Story by John Calvin Hughes

The Modernist Short Story

Epiphany is not all it’s zapped up to be.
Not all angels and baby saviors.
On the other hand, if you find yourself
in a short story, pretty quick you’ll find
you’re practically a different person,
Enlightened, open hearted, closer to adult-
hood. In the text is not like out here.
Out here you live in a world where good
people are too ignorant to know
fascism if it stomped on their faces.
But let a writer get ahold of you
and you miss a bazaar, throw out
some board games, quit a job and pow
you’re all fixed up. In the good way.
Kill your father, snatch a quilt outta
your daughter’s greedy hands, drop
a car in a river, and, buddy how,
you’re on the road:
innocence to experience, that’s
what the professors call it,
as if it were a good thing:
change and progress somehow identical.
Sure, okay, but what about that moment
when you hear the squeal of brakes
while you’re in the crosswalk,
when you open the package
you were not expecting from
a cabin somewhere in Montana,
when you see that look on her face
that says this news will not be good.
Oh, you’ll be changed on the other side
of it, all right. And then pitiless finger
of God reaching down through the cloudless,
sunless sky to touch you right on top of your head,
just before that old misfit pulls the trigger.

by John Calvin Hughes

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Editor’s Note: This poem’s conversational tone disguises the hard truths lurking in the lines—real life is not fiction, and fiction’s facile endings don’t solve real life problems.


One response to “The Modernist Short Story by John Calvin Hughes”

  1. richardsund Avatar

    I love the off- handed tone of this poem, and the way the poet contrasts real life with fiction. The fictional America features lots of smiling people selling things in TV commercials, while most,most Americans love to ignore illness, suffering and death. Just saying…..

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