“A Shipwrecked Person” by James Tate

James Tate


When I woke from my afternoon nap, I wanted
to hold onto my dream, but in a matter of seconds
it had drifted away like a fine mist. Nothing
remained; oh, perhaps a green corner of cloth
pinched between my fingers, signifying what?
Everything about the house seemed alien to me.
The scissors yawned. The plants glowed. The
mirror was full of pain and stories that made no
sense to me. I moved like a ghost through the rooms.
Stacks of books with secret formulas and ancient
hieroglyphic predictions. And lamps, like stern
remonstrances. The silverware is surely more
guilty than I. The doorknobs don’t even believe
in tomorrow. The green cloth is burning-up. I
toss it into the freezer with a sigh of relief.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002

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