For Fear of Being More Afraid

Statement from the Artist:

There's that quote, “Those who do not know history's mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” This implies a kind of cycle: make a mistake, forget it, let time pass, make the mistake again.

In these three recountings, I am hoping to shed a different light on that cycle. Historians are always using that quote to defend the study of history as a path toward advancement. What I never hear anyone talking about is the small comfort of living a life made up of the same mistakes.

That, yes, I concede there is something nauseating about watching myself screw-up the same ways again and again. It's like a carousel, simultaneous nostalgia and hyper presentness, that awful, “Oh no, here it comes again” feeling.

But there is also the soft warm comfort of the familiar. Knowing the name of my mistake gives me a sense of control over it. A pleasure in watching and recognize the same disease destroy me again and again.

I guess I'm asking the same question Camus did. Can a Sisyphus, a man doomed to the same fate forever who cannot learn from his past, be happy? I picked these three moments because I believe they feature the same mistake and to varying degrees the speaker in the poems offers some enjoyment in making the mistake.

My goal with these poems is to explore a mistake-driven life as one simultaneously filled with celebrated investigation.

- Joseph Anderson

For Fear of Being More Afraid
Three Recountings

I was a light no when I put the gardenias in my hair but no because of the ants and no to wear my red canvas pants and no and he kissed me under the trampoline and might well be him because I mean I asked him with my face to ask me no and then he asked me the place I would no to say no my light and fist. I put my arms and wish around him no and drew him down to me no so he no could feel me wholly and no tomorrow would change today no and his heart was a small horse and no I said no I will no. And no the apple cider had fermented too long and no we were drinking vinegar and scrapping the mold off of the sauerkraut and I thought no we weren't small fruits that just grow sour together but no I wasn't sure.

My father was teaching my sister to drive. She would not make left turns for fear of swinging too far out and colliding head on to another car. After the eleventh right turn we had surrendered to my sister's silent square dance. We became surprised that anyone had ever considered right turns safe and were more surprised that no one had joined us. We felt small when passing the same dog tied to a tree. He had shortened his own leash by walking in circles. I went along on a date between her and her boyfriend at the time. They were eating ice-cream and trying to pretend what was not real was still there. They were trying not to surrender their small dream of happiness, quiet conversations, mason jars filled with strawberry and rhubarb, early light, and the music that provides the mirrored vocabulary of the future. They were pushing around the melted ice cream in their cups and trying not to exist anymore.

We refilled our coffee cups and sat in silence. I wondered why you kept coming, and knew things would be bad when you left and wondered if you did too. You fell asleep in your chair. It was awfully cold outside. I thought how for both of us this was our first real winter. This was the first time we could see the clouds fall apart through the sky and recollect on the streets and sidewalks. You said I didn't have to walk you home. A minute after you left I ran after you and we scared each other again. We walked in silence back to your street. We were slowly realizing that everything: the sidewalks, the mugs, the exposed lightbulbs were the results of someone's hands and someone's time. And that the someones were just as us: young and small and that they probably did not like making the mugs and the lightbulbs and the small plastic trees that go on birthday cakes. We were looking at our own hands and wondering if there was any other way to spend our time.

Joseph Anderson is a writer living, working, and crying in New York City. He is a student at NYU and his poems have previously appeared in Potluck and Lines and Stars.