from Pirke Avot <-> Book of Fathers

Evan Willner

7. Expect to find a tumor in your bladder. 8. Believe
it’s something you did. 0.2. Your family history
is clean. 0.5. It’s all fairytale fun when you’re nothing
but cells braining yourself and bellying and bladdering yourself
into a real life person, but it could easily go too far:
for instance (0.6), cells do continue to reproduce
shamelessly, out of habit, really, a beginner’s mistake, and
maybe (and this could be 1.7 or 7.7)
cancer you up; it’s not unlikely – only a function of time
plus a single failure in the remediative process. Now,
when they discover the new pulse blind organ mass in you, believe
this sentence was determined from on high – not by the tobacco
industrial complex, irresponsible diet, or even
your having expected it for so long (expect that 9.9 will
be “If you would like to be transferred to a private room, we will
transfer you to a private room”) but from all the way to the top,
past statistical probability, mortal urges, gramma
tical necessity, fate and the International Jewish
Conspiracy, to a triggering cancer god who must hate you.

Friends, though one who died at 35 is always one who dies at 3
5, that is, is one who always dies at 35 as well as one who
always will have died, I’m certain Gertrude Stein had never said so by the
time there was a respectable Fingerling potato’s worth of mass rest
ing in her fertile interior, invisible to the medical
technology of the almost mid 20th century. Don’t make this
bigger than it is: when a significant percentage of the popu
lation, say 35, a number equal to the letters E through M,
die, we find in each one’s brain a root vegetable that had been ripening
through night years but that was not the cause of death, which is to say Gertrude Stein
and her thickening brain and gut were like every other skeptical pers
on. She was an S and she died: you can look it up. There are also those
who can’t stop growing uterine lining over their intestines and down
their peritoneal walls; this growth begins with faith and a voice and a
hilarious blessing for one barren cell: she shall bear offspring who shall swell
to form a cancer body fit to fill any woman. Such women are
called endometriosis and are not infectious: you can look them up.

Evan Willner is the author of a 7450-syllable apparatus, "homemade traps for new world Brians" (BlazeVOX, 2007), which retails for $14 -- a mere 0.0018/syllable or 0.27/poem. He teaches literature at DePaul University and is hard at work on "Pirke Avot <--> Book of Fathers," a new Talmud. His most recent publications include Elliott Vivian Willner and poems in ActionYES and 6x6.