John Fitzgerald

Issue #
February 28, 2015



When my father, then my uncle died,
I became the eldest of an endangered breed.
Myself, my brother, my two sons remain.

I once read of a wealthy woman who listed her 12 major fears.
Twelve. Major fears. Think about that.
Many of hers had to do with her wealth, and its retention.

Twelve major fears is one an hour during the day.
They could repeat themselves at night.
I have inhaled fear itself, and it is no air, but just more dust.


Fear begins as larva.
Compare that to desire,
which is born just a smaller version of what it always will be.

Fear transforms into other things, desires just get bigger.
Some like to point out that the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.
Maggots become flies, but who pretends to notice?

Fears can become both flies and butterflies, given a choice.
Fear predicts the future.
That is how it knows where it is now.


Fear has a face that disappears whenever I look into it.
Removed from the center of the world,
I am afraid, and that is the point.

Fear is a hole between two places.
Some might call it a door.
I have three fears that look like worms in a jar:

The first is writhing, gasping for breath but still alive,
the second is just there, without knowing why,
and the third is nothing to write about.


The exterminator comes today, to pick up 4 fears in a jar.
I’ve added another since last time,
I’ve been surveilling.

Panic is half way in between pain and fear.
It comes with the realization
that no holes are cut in the lid.

At first, he cannot see them. I have to point them out.
When he does he says he’s never known the likes.
He’ll send them out to be identified.


They have obsessed me now, like any fear will.
Turns out fears are tiny worms jumping to their conclusions.
They are much too small for their own identities.

Were an eyelash an inchworm, only faster.
Fears appear to have heads at both ends,
with I imagine no buzz, but spiked hair.

When I saw the first one folding and unfolding
its way across a legal pad, I reacted like Doctor Frankenstein
having just brought a line to life.


If not for their direction, you could not tell which end to look into.
I had to take a second glance to determine it was astray.
When I find things astray, I test them for intelligence.

I put a post-it note in its path, but it stopped in its tracks and stood on end
the way a steel sliver stands and quivers beneath a magnet,
as if to mimic a blade of grass (a worm-trick, played on birds).

It apparently tested the intelligence of those gone astray as well.
The note says the primary goal is expansion.
How I’d love for the words to just walk off the page like that.


Fears and I cannot coexist.
Fears would eat out my insides,
the way worms do a grave.

The fourth fear already happened to somebody else.
In spite of the memories, and the editing,
a shuffled and reshuffled deck is back in its original condition.

There is an order to be discovered. There is always later, or else.
Madness is going back over every book I’ve ever read
looking for that part about me and my thoughts.


If there is a reflection of light in an otherwise dark pool of water,
that’s the part I want to drink.
But I get only typical wetness, and the light remains undisturbed.

I keep missing the point, and in the meantime,
these are the events in my life.
Is any solace to be found in listening to the wind?

Not unless described as laughter. But it is hardness blowing,
and I the object of penetration. Here’s what I think of the wind:
It is the mind, with an upside down “M.”


Something similar goes for unwinding, the mind again will be revealed.
Attempts to take this in all at once are just insane,
that’s what I think the voices are saying.

Did you know each unraveled breath contains the history
of every place it’s ever strayed?
This one, once, was last, which explains its filtered sort of gray.

Later, we can unravel a breath and see what it’s made of.
The way mist from the waves stretches into the wind, there is a place.
What a huge fear the last poem always is.

From The Mind (Salmon Poetry 2011)

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