Untitled by Jordan Stepaniuk

after Inger Christensen’s “Alphabet”

Wolves exist, wolves with wide yellow eyes, exist;

wild wolves, and winter, and windows

wild-eyed wolves staring me down;

wolves and wind in the willows exist;

discovering the sea lion in 1891 exists,

1891 exists, and ducks; ducks and Gershwin in the rain

and empty reservoirs in the rain exist,  

rain that isn’t really rain but mist exists;

alone with the ducks, and the water reeds, and the trees

and if I am alone,

with only the ducks, and the sounds of rain in the reservoir,

do I exist?


rainy afternoon, August 1



Ducks exist, ducks and dark waters;

ducklings exist, if ducks exist; and rain,

rain exists

rain and reservoirs so gray they could be filled of ash,

ash; ash exists, and flames, and falling

speaking words that mix with soot

crumbling as soon as they leave your tongue, exists,

crying tears without salt, only the ashes of a family;

family exists, filling the reservoir with tears so the ducks do not drown in the ash ;

ash mixed with duck feathers grayer than the ash and the water over which they float

grayer than the sky from which we fall, these things exist.


If things happen in an instant, the ordinary instant,

then the ordinary instant must exist;

ice floes exist, ice and discovering the sea lion,

the ordinary, mundane, the routine,

daily routine exists, and days, yes, days still exist,

ordinary days that dawn temperate and nearly cloudless

in the eastern United States exist.


morning, September 11


Dinosaurs don’t exist

Tyrannosaurus Rex and his scrawny limbs

and his beady eyes;

Velociraptors plundering the eggs of prehistoric ducks;

ducks exist,

and a crater in Mexico, deeper than it is wide, exists;

and Quetzalcoatlus, the largest creature to ever fly,

mighty Quetzalcoatlus fell from the sky

drowning in a cloud of ash;

Quetzalcoatlus doesn’t exist.


Food exists; food and falls of water

and the Révolution Française;

Robespierre, Thermidor, storming the Bastille

exist; Napoleon exists, and the Reign of Terror and the Second Regime,

and Marie Antoinette did exist;

Marie Antoinette who said let them eat cake;

cake exists

the taste of cake exists if saliva exists

only if saliva exists does cake really exist;

ash-flavored everything exists,

a thousand televisions screaming one thing;

Indian Summer exists, and children screaming in the streets;

children must exist, if evil exists; and

children, evil isn’t something that happens far off,

it suddenly touches you on the arm.