Issue 9: Horizontal vs. Vertical
A Publication of the USF MFA in Writing Program


Thing-In-Itself

Pablo Medina

            There is in almost dying, the island in mid-ocean, veiled by morning light, a thing-in-itself castigating our expectations with the crisp green and fawn red of its landscape. You swim toward it, knowing you will never get there without first abandoning the complicated machinery of ropes and pulleys that tie you to cause and consequence. These are various and at times contradictory. One day you are living surrounded by desert, an ocean of sand that keeps you gasping for air. Another you dive into the real sea, not the metaphorical one, but waves are harsh and sharks are waiting. On the shore your wife calls out to you, and so you return, subsuming your courage to her fear. The essence of island is one that glows on a calm sea for which there is no map or exercise, and no return. As the morning light illuminates it, it clarifies, fills with the shadows of childhood, although on careful scrutiny you discover there are no actual children there, only old people (youth that age has vanquished), among them a man sitting on a porch smoking a cigar, unshaven, spitting out tobacco juice. On the other side of town, which is invisible to you, there are the sounds of commerce: merchants arguing over the price of cod, vendors crossing the street with sacks of coconuts on their shoulders, butchers whacking at pig carcasses with their cleavers. You are the old man who listens, you are the merchants and the vendors and the butchers, you are the island, the thing-in-itself, that will soon disappear into the dark sea, leaving behind a space no one recognizes, a cigar floating in the foam of the waves, a disembodied whisper the poet calls the nothing that is.

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