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Freewill, a poem by David Garyan

“Freewill” was first published in Volume 11 of The American Journal of Poetry (July 1st, 2021). It was subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the editor, Robert Nazarene.


The oceanographer who hated seafood couldn’t fall in love with a woman from Switzerland, Serbia, or even Ethiopia, which did have access to the Red Sea, but lost it in a war to Eritrea. Moses has no place in the minds of scientists standing on opposite shores of their happiness— always out of reach. They can choose their destiny better than midnight refusing to marry the color black, or painters expecting warmth from the neutral feelings they mix. An estrangement is the distance between two points on which you can’t construct a bridge. And like lovers who build a boat together yet pray for winds in opposite directions, the world is splitting like a religion where all compose their own hymns, where everyone writes their own prayers. Why? To save themselves? The word Pangea has been forgotten like an unwanted child whose birth certificate historians look for alone, whose story merely geologists tell, whose shape just the dead behold. What else is there to live for? Borders, divorce, restrictions, marriage, boundaries, and freedom, all with their own lines— visible and invisible. And yet, who’s really studied the ocean long enough to know Africa once belonged to the New World? And which woman tells you the truth when she says falling in love never interested her— the nun or the prostitute? There’s not enough science in all the world’s depths to baptize sincerity. There’s not enough clarity in the logic of vodka to make people believe hell exists. Set the course for derangement. It’s not sinful to sink if you’re also praying to rise from the ocean’s other side. Life has become a religion that has drawn maps for a planet covered wholly by water; science, meanwhile, has built the ships to navigate it. No God can convince gravity to let down a suicidal man— the one hellbent on jumping from heights he can’t survive. Freewill—oceanographers who must love seafood when their bodies don’t allow them to like it. You find all this funny? Don’t laugh. There are men (and women) who quit drinking ten years ago and still trip on flat streets while walking with their heads down— looking at nothing but their feet. Is it destiny or carelessness? You’re free. You’re free. Now go and experience a pain other than your own; study poverty like sociologists who’ve never been hungry, study pathology like doctors who’ve never been sick, study madness like psychologists who’ve never needed one. All this is just a movie— you’re welcome to follow the script exactly as it’s written, and you’re also free to turn the show off any time— there’s always someone else willing to endure the rest.


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