Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Fundamental Attribution Error

I am thankful my ears
merely ring, that they are
not two pilfered slips
of marble discovered

in the glove compartment
of the newest employee
of the Museum of Ruin,
whose fetish to speak

softly into stone he did not
disclose on his application.
If his manager were a kind
person—and what person

who for a living catalogs
ruin isn’t at least patient
with imperfection—
he would be kinder than

the part of me that imagines
how this story’s trajectory
involves squad cars and any
of several ways the thief

winds up with a banshee
in his brain, a phrase
that tastes decidedly unlike
the dirt that filled first

the mouth and nostrils
and then each of the thief’s
ears when the police mashed
his head repeatedly into the ground.

They thought doing so was just
the beginning of retribution,
which is a kind of justice common
but ill-suited to human existence.

To the thief, whose brain
would soon start hissing
the word criminal at the image
of itself hanging in the mirror

on the barnacled wall
of its one room, the brutality
was as much inevitable as it was
an opportunity to say good-

bye to the endless and unwearied
stones inside the earth, to feel
in the ground’s looseness
how they had already begun

to forgive him. That the world
will not forgive him should be
obvious. See the way it lets
the word criminal persist inside

him for the span of time
it keeps him away. If you want
to imagine it, imagine
permanent orange internal lightning

bolts because orange is the closest
a name for a color comes to damage.
Then imagine, in time, the thief
let back out in the world;

imagine him entering the thicket
of trees just behind his mother’s
house (where else do you think
he’d live?), imagine him

digging in the dirt there
for a rock to talk to.
Imagine him working by hand
whole feet down without

uncovering a single stone,
just mounds of soil
and the trench his desperation
built. Imagine the volume

of what he does not find.
Imagine his mother standing
at her back door, a mug of tea
pressed against her temple,

having watched her son
slip into the greenery
for the purpose of she knows
not what, and how the bleating

thing that fills her then is her
wonder at how deep into
the trees her son must go
before she can say he’s gone.  

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