I was in Poznan, Poland, celebrating Jeff and Karolina's wedding when Magdalena walked into the bar--not her first of the evening--opened her eyes wide, pointed at me, and exclaimed, "Zwariowany Kapelusznik!" Translation revealed "The Mad Hatnik" of Lewis Carroll, which struck me as a possible alter-ego. On the airplane on the way to Poland I had been reading James Hogg's *The Confessions of a Justified Sinner*, a novel about a man who commits suicide in order to kill off his own uncontrollably evil doppelganger. I wrote the prose poem as both a celebratory song for the nuptials of my friends and also in an attempt to murder whatever was left of the me who was not wholly committed to my own beloved. It was an important healing step for me after my betrayal and abandonment by my wife. So far so good.
Lee Foust hails from the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area but has lived for many years in Florence, Italy. There he writes, performs his compositions--with and without banging a drum--and teaches literature and creative writing to US students studying abroad. "Zwariowany Kapelusznik" is part of *Sojourner*, a collection of stories, verse, and prose poems gathered around the theme of place: home, travel, escape, getting lost, and expatriatude. For more info click here.
(For Jeff & Karolina—but also for Magdalena, Chris, and A
"When you live in a place, you must eat the bread of its people." –Jeff Gbur
Will the Mad Hatnik ever relinquish his hoary grip on our hearts? He is a fickle fiend who desires his own undoing above all other enterprises. He met the Devil at the crossroads—Zürich, by chance, when his flights were rerouted—and had no need to sell his soul, having recognized in himself his own only single double indemnity policy's sole beneficiary.
Hitchhiking back to Algeria, by way of Abernathy, he consoles himself with erotic daydreams and vodka suppositories. However, even in this he is not alone: for Alhambra Akhmatova, his accomplice, has laid the road bare by vanishing again and again into imaginary existence. The very trees tremble at the power of the misadventures that they vow silently never effectively to have.
And lies? He could tell nothing else, not even time, and yet his cell phone bloomed yellow and blue in the sun through cracks that led, all too predictably, to the underworld.
Yet suicide might actually be a way, so say I (and James Hogg), of rooting out the Devil's truffle. However—no, not "but," anything but "but"—however, descent was unnecessary for this, our own land, turned out to be that of the dead—a salvific portal to all places, a Slavonic city of the central plain, so necessary to the nomads of the steppes and the rioters of '56, a place of heartening renewal, where union is celebrated from the bottom of a beer glass up: where love cannot matter and, devoid of matter, is ever so lovely.
Craven indeed is that helpless double who cannot look himself in the eye, buy at least half of his own soul, ring his imaginary lady's finger, smile at the camera, doff his hat, and save his own soul through the suicide of a lady's man.
Poznan-Florence, in transit