The International Literary Quarterly
Contributors

Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Donald Adamson
Diran Adebayo
Nausheen Ahmad
Toheed Ahmad
Amanda Aizpuriete
Baba Akote
Elisa Albo
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Rosetta Allan
María Teresa Andruetto
Innokenty Annensky
Claudia Apablaza
Robert Appelbaum
Michael Arditti
Jenny Argante
Sandra Arnold
C.J.K. Arkell
Agnar Artúvertin
Sarah Arvio
Rosemary Ashton
Mammed Aslan
Coral Atkinson
Rose Ausländer
Shushan Avagyan
Razif Bahari
Elizabeth Baines
Jo Baker
Ismail Bala
Evgeny Baratynsky
Saule Abdrakhman-kyzy Batay
Konstantin Nikolaevich Batyushkov
William Bedford
Gillian Beer
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Ilya Bernstein
Mashey Bernstein
Christopher Betts
Sujata Bhatt
Sven Birkerts
Linda Black
Chana Bloch
Amy Bloom
Mary Blum Devor
Michael Blumenthal
Jean Boase-Beier
Jorge Luis Borges
Alison Brackenbury
Julia Brannigan
Theo Breuer
Iain Britton
Françoise Brodsky
Amy Brown
Bernard Brown
Diane Brown
Gay Buckingham
Carmen Bugan
Stephen Burt
Zarah Butcher McGunnigle
James Byrne
Kevin Cadwallander
Howard Camner
Mary Caponegro
Marisa Cappetta
Helena Cardoso
Adrian Castro
Luis Cernuda
Firat Cewerî
Pierre Chappuis
Neil Charleton
Janet Charman
Sampurna Chattarji
Amit Chaudhuri
Mèlissa Chiasson
Ronald Christ
Alex Cigale
Sally Cline
Marcelo Cohen
Lila Cona
Eugenio Conchez
Andrew Cowan
Mary Creswell
Christine Crow
Pedro Xavier Solís Cuadra
Majella Cullinane
P. Scott Cunningham
Emma Currie
Jeni Curtis
Stephen Cushman
David Dabydeen
Susan Daitch
Rubén Dario
Jean de la Fontaine
Denys Johnson Davies
Lydia Davis
Robert Davreu
David Dawnay
Jill Dawson
Rosalía de Castro
Joanne Rocky Delaplaine
Patricia Delmar
Christine De Luca
Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
Paul Scott Derrick
Josephine Dickinson
Belinda Diepenheim
Jenny Diski
Rita Dove
Arkadii Dragomoschenko
Paulette Dubé
Denise Duhamel
Jonathan Dunne
S. B. Easwaran
Jorge Edwards
David Eggleton
Mohamed El-Bisatie
Tsvetanka Elenkova
Johanna Emeney
Osama Esber
Fiona Farrell
Ernest Farrés
Elaine Feinstein
Gigi Fenster
Micah Timona Ferris
Vasil Filipov
Maria Filippakopoulou
Ruth Fogelman
Peter France
Alexandra Fraser
Bashabi Fraser
Janis Freegard
Robin Fry
Alice Fulton
Ulrich Gabriel
Manana Gelashvili
Laurice Gilbert
Paul Giles
Zulfikar Ghose
Corey Ginsberg
Chrissie Gittins
Sarah Glazer
Michael Glover
George Gömöri
Giles Goodland
Martin Goodman
Roberta Gordenstein
Mina Gorji
Maria Grech Ganado
David Gregory
Philip Gross
Carla Guelfenbein
Daniel Gunn
Charles Hadfield
Haidar Haidar
Ruth Halkon
Tomás Harris
Geoffrey Hartman
Siobhan Harvey
Beatriz Hausner
John Haynes
Jennifer Hearn
Helen Heath
Geoffrey Heptonstall
Felisberto Hernández
W.N. Herbert
William Hershaw
Michael Hettich
Allen Hibbard
Hassan Hilmi
Rhisiart Hincks
Kerry Hines
Amanda Hopkinson
Adam Horovitz
David Howard
Sue Hubbard
Aamer Hussein
Fahmida Hussain
Alexander Hutchison
Sabine Huynh
Juan Kruz Igerabide Sarasola
Neil Langdon Inglis
Jouni Inkala
Ofonime Inyang
Kevin Ireland
Michael Ives
Philippe Jacottet
Robert Alan Jamieson
Rebecca Jany
Andrea Jeftanovic
Ana Jelnikar
Miroslav Jindra
Stephanie Johnson
Bret Anthony Johnston
Marion Jones
Tim Jones
Gabriel Josipovici
Pierre-Albert Jourdan
Sophie Judah
Tomoko Kanda
Maarja Kangro
Jana Kantorová-Báliková
Fawzi Karim
Kapka Kassabova
Susan Kelly-DeWitt
Mimi Khalvati
Daniil Kharms
Velimir Khlebnikov
Akhmad hoji Khorazmiy
David Kinloch
John Kinsella
Yudit Kiss
Tomislav Kuzmanović
Andrea Labinger
Charles Lambert
Christopher Lane
Jan Lauwereyns
Fernando Lavandeira
Graeme Lay
Ilias Layios
Hiên-Minh Lê
Mikhail Lermontov
Miriam Levine
Suzanne Jill Levine
Micaela Lewitt
Zhimin Li
Joanne Limburg
Birgit Linder
Pippa Little
Parvin Loloi
Christopher Louvet
Helen Lowe
Ana Lucic
Aonghas MacNeacail
Kona Macphee
Kate Mahony
Sara Maitland
Channah Magori
Vasyl Makhno
Marcelo Maturana Montañez
Stephanie Mayne
Ben Mazer
Harvey Molloy
Osip Mandelstam
Alberto Manguel
Olga Markelova
Laura Marney
Geraldine Maxwell
John McAuliffe
Peter McCarey
John McCullough
Richard McKane
John MacKinven
Cilla McQueen
Edie Meidav
Ernst Meister
Lina Meruane
Jesse Millner
Deborah Moggach
Mawatle J. Mojalefa
Jonathan Morley
César Moro
Helen Mort
Laura Moser
Andrew Motion
Paola Musa
Robin Myers
André Naffis-Sahely
Vivek Narayanan
Bob Natifu
María Negroni
Hernán Neira
Barbra Nightingale
Paschalis Nikolaou
James Norcliffe
Carol Novack
Annakuly Nurmammedov
Joyce Carol Oates
Sunday Enessi Ododo
Obododimma Oha
Michael O'Leary
Antonio Diaz Oliva
Wilson Orhiunu
Maris O'Rourke
Sue Orr
Wendy O'Shea-Meddour
María Claudia Otsubo
Ruth Padel
Ron Padgett
Thalia Pandiri
Judith Dell Panny
Hom Paribag
Lawrence Patchett
Ian Patterson
Georges Perros
Pascale Petit
Aleksandar Petrov
Mario Petrucci
Geoffrey Philp
Toni Piccini
Henning Pieterse
Robert Pinsky
Mark Pirie
David Plante
Nicolás Poblete
Sara Poisson
Clare Pollard
Mori Ponsowy
Wena Poon
Orest Popovych
Jem Poster
Begonya Pozo
Pauline Prior-Pitt
Eugenia Prado Bassi
Ian Probstein
Sheenagh Pugh
Kate Pullinger
Zosimo Quibilan, Jr
Vera V. Radojević
Margaret Ranger
Tessa Ransford
Shruti Rao
Irina Ratushinskaya
Tanyo Ravicz
Richard Reeve
Sue Reidy
Joan Retallack
Laura Richardson
Harry Ricketts
Ron Riddell
Cynthia Rimsky
Loreto Riveiro Alvarez
James Robertson
Peter Robertson
Gonzalo Rojas
Dilys Rose
Gabriel Rosenstock
Jack Ross
Anthony Rudolf
Basant Rungta
Joseph Ryan
Sean Rys
Jostein Sæbøe
André Naffis Sahely
Eurig Salisbury
Fiona Sampson
Polly Samson
Priya Sarukkai Chabria
Maree Scarlett
John Schad
Michael Schmidt
L.E. Scott
Maureen Seaton
Alexis Sellas
Hadaa Sendoo
Chris Serio
Resul Shabani
Bina Shah
Yasir Shah
Daniel Shapiro
Ruth Sharman
Tina Shaw
David Shields
Ana María Shua
Christine Simon
Iain Sinclair
Katri Skala
Carole Smith
Ian C. Smith
Elizabeth Smither
John Stauffer
Jim Stewart
Susan Stewart
Jesper Svenbro
Virgil Suárez
Lars-Håkan Svensson
Sridala Swami
Rebecca Swift
George Szirtes
Chee-Lay Tan
Tugrul Tanyol
José-Flore Tappy
Alejandro Tarrab
Campbell Taylor
John Taylor
Judith Taylor
Petar Tchouhov
Miguel Teruel
John Thieme
Karen Thornber
Tim Tomlinson
Angela Topping
David Trinidad
Kola Tubosun
Nick Vagnoni
Joost Vandecasteele
Jan van Mersbergen
Latika Vasil
Yassen Vassilev
Lawrence Venuti
Lidia Vianu
Dev Virahsawmy
Anthony Vivis
Richard Von Sturmer
Răzvan Voncu
Nasos Vayenas
Mauricio Wacquez
Julie Marie Wade
Alan Wall
Marina Warner
Mia Watkins
Peter Wells
Stanley Wells
Laura Watkinson
Joe Wiinikka-Lydon
Hayden Williams
Edwin Williamson
Ronald V. Wilson
Stephen Wilson
Alison Wong
Leslie Woodard
Elzbieta Wójcik-Leese
Niel Wright
Manolis Xexakis
Xu Xi
Gao Xingjian
Sonja Yelich
Tamar Yoseloff
Augustus Young
Soltobay Zaripbekov
Karen Zelas
Alan Ziegler
Ariel Zinder

 

President, Publisher & Founding Editor:
Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Glenna Luschei
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Vice-President: Elena Poniatowska
U. S. General Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
London Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Geraldine Maxwell
New York Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Meena Alexander
Washington D.C. Editor/Senior
Editor-at-Large:
Laura Moser
Argentine Editor: Yamila Musa
Deputy Editor: Allen Hibbard
Deputy Editor: Jerónimo Mohar Volkow
Deputy Editor: Bina Shah
Advisory Consultant: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
General Editor: Malvina Segui
Art Editor: Lara Alcantara-Lansberg
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boullossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Hollis Clayson
Sarah Churchwell
Marcelo Cohen
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Beatriz Hausner
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Thomas Luschei
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Martha Nussbaum
Tim Parks
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Daniel Shapiro
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Daniel Shapiro
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Assistant Editor: Sara Besserman
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Conor Bracken
Assistant Editor: Eugenio Conchez
Assistant Editor: Patricia Delmar
Assistant Editor: Lucila Gallino
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Krista Oehlke
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Assistant Editor: Naomi Schub
Assistant Editor: Stephanie Smith
Assistant Editor: Emily Snyder
Assistant Editor: Robert Toperter
Assistant Editor: Laurence Webb
Art Consultant: Verónica Barbatano
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

 



Poetic Voices:
Ravenna II
A Poem By: David Garyan
 

 



Ravenna I

Ravenna III

The city that kept you
awake for two decades
is now divorced by an ocean—
like actors who leave their kids
to become famous abroad,
it’s still hard to sleep
in a colder house,
surrounded by quiet streets.
To be a foreigner is living
with a beautiful woman
who shares all her secrets
in a language you don’t know—
begin to understand her,
and she gets suspicious,
threatening to leave.
Like leaves that forget
to change colors in autumn,
the foreigner’s life exists
in the instincts of scientists
and the theories of mothers.
People who’ve been
first-generation
immigrants twice
are war heroes
in unpopular conflicts—
their letters are idioms of home,
and speak of war’s ugliness;
their service records are dialects of hate
no civilian understands.
First-generation immigrants
are soldiers who marry
wives of the enemy;
they understand soon enough
that merely learning to speak
will open culture’s headquarters,
but not the doors of its living room;
dictionaries are just quick greetings
on grey Ravenna alleys;
thesauruses are coworkers
who have nothing in common;
newspapers are graveyards
without headstones and bodies—
they bury dead
names with an alphabet
and put headlines on them.
The foreigner is an architect
who’s allowed to build houses,
but has no right to buy land;
the foreigner has many friends
who greet him without smiles
and part ways without embraces.
Like teachers who prefer
strangers in class—
like surgeons who can’t
operate on relatives,
the vendors of Ravenna keep selling
their fruits and vegetables,
sometimes with just a ciao.
Euros are always required;
only words have never
afforded anyone food,
except maybe beggars.
The way angry people
are easier to convince
than those who say nothing,
a city with too many churches
provides enough silence
to forget your own voice;
in a city with too much peace,
people quote the books
they haven’t read
and write diaries
about other people’s lives,
but never their own.
The way shipwrecked sailors
won’t reach their destination
but can still hope to survive,
foreigners must find prayers
they don’t understand
instead of asking for favors
that will never be granted.
The honeymoon of the lifelong
nomad ends when
there’s nowhere else to go,
and nothing new to see;
when journeys end,
wanderers become children
who are tired of playgrounds;
they become ghosts
who are glad to be dead.
What do travelers become
when they don’t need maps
to navigate a city anymore?
Have they stayed too long?
Have they ceased being foreign?
Ravenna, the new has become familiar again,
like the faces of old friends you hate,
like the memories of lovers
you wish hadn’t left,
like the smell of mother’s cooking
when you’re no longer hungry,
like the sound of routine sins
when you confess them every week,
like the touch of a spouse
when you’ve been married for fifty years.
Hell is the nicest street
you must walk to work daily.
Hell is the most beautiful woman
you can’t leave alone,
or by herself.
Hell is the best party
you must attend every day.
There’s no sense in resisting the world;
it doesn’t like chefs who cook
something you hate—
just to prove your taste wrong;
that’s philosophy’s job.
Reason is a divorced couple
that can’t be separated
because they still want
to hate each other.
Reason is a butcher who searches
for blood in a pomegranate.
Reason is an island
whose people can’t build ships.
Reason is fighting for freedom
in segregated divisions.
Reason is a drug addict
who can quit anytime,
except for right now.
No escape artists on earth
can resolve problems
they haven’t created themselves.
Perfection is the prettiest
woman in a world without mirrors—
it’s a taxi driver whose clients
have no direction in life;
it’s a banker whose friends are all poor,
an actress who must lie to her husband,
a dictator ruling the happiest country,
but Ravenna’s drivers
all want to go somewhere;
the streets are pleasant,
but they all lead to work;
the women are beautiful,
but they’re always with someone;
the actresses are bad liars
and the actors aren’t lonely enough.
The way no language can soothe
the anger of fathers—
the way no voice can hide
suspicion from mothers,
so, in Ravenna, marriages fail
like anywhere else,
and the successful ones
are never without misery.
Where do the shadows
of lonely people go
to escape the darkness
of Ravenna’s alleys?
No, they can’t run away—
the logic of every city
in the world is the same;
poor and rich streets
all lead to one end;
the levels of pollution
come from one science;
the different sorrows
all come from a single humanity;
so, too, people die in distinct ways,
but all tickets home have one price.
Biology is an autistic genius
who can’t read emotions.
Are there chemical differences
between tears of sadness and joy?
The tongue of biology says no.
Do the frequencies change
between fake laughs and real ones?
The ears of biology say no.
Yet, what are the differences
between the tears of an actor
and those of a mourner?
What’s the difference between
a manipulator’s laugh
and that of a comedian?
And if the world’s really a stage,
will there be an audience
to applaud when it ends?
Please, if someone is watching
this comedy,
have some mercy
on those who pretend—
reward those who refused
orders to kill,
and punish those who killed
when directed.
The way thieves haven’t stolen
once they regret and bring
something back,
does it matter
if we’ve forgotten the lines
we never received?
Hell is just the gift of speech
without any directions,
sight without guidance,
taste without recipes,
smell without contrasts,
touch without love.
Hell is a priest who answers
rhetorical questions of sinners.
The way death never fails
to make selfless donors
out of the greediest people,
so travelers run away
from life by accepting
the world in languages
they don’t understand.
Like doctors with identical goals
who use different medicines,
monks have the same need to escape;
they just run from life
by renouncing the world
in languages they know best.
People perceive freedom
the way courts forget
a thief’s famished body
when he’s punished for stealing.
All artists try to win
arguments against fate
by creating new
lingo for nature,
but problems translated
into your own language
are like beautiful portraits
of dying artists,
like the poetry in prayers
that will never be answered,
like today’s earthquake
that raised yesterday’s mountains,
like the wind moving ships today,
then becoming a hurricane tomorrow.
And you, Ravenna, have faith
in humanity like a divorced woman
who knows what men really want—
don’t you believe any romantics,
preachers, and travelers
coming to save you;
they carry libraries of love
with their tongues,
ideas of salvation with their hands,
and the past under their feet,
but the poet’s passion
likewise fades after
the first draft;
the preacher’s hands
are also too weak
for the world’s weight;
and the traveler’s eyes
don’t notice the holy ground
their feet are trampling.
Ravenna, you’re a Christian city,
and those who still visit you
marvel at the basilicas
that remain to this day—
mosaic gems glowing inside
the Sant’Apollinare in Classe
rival the sun’s light,
but your sinners are no closer to Christ
than people without churches,
and churches without God.
The way children become adults
after hearing too many lies,
it’s hard to recognize
which wine tastes
like Christ’s blood
and which bread
like his body.
The way adults
become philosophers
after getting the calling
to disprove God,
it’s hard to climb mountains
without the impulse to conquer them,
or the urge to leave flags on their summits.
The way birds without wings
lose hope in the wind,
so we’ve lost faith in science,
our God of gods—
creator and destroyer of all.
Astronomy, the sun god,
radiates no light or salvation;
medicine, the god of cures,
kills the body to heal it;
biology, the earth god,
destroys the planet to save it;
philosophers, our modern Fates,
speak of justice, love, and faith,
but they can’t change
the course of humanity anymore.
Ravenna, like parents
who’ve raised intelligent
kids using intuition and love,
every basilica here,
down to its last mosaic,
was blessed with the best science,
and no god will rescue
what humanity has built.
Your churches have seen
their architects die
and must stand by themselves—
like paper without memories
and memories without paper,
like light without lamps
and lamps without light,
like fire without forests
and forests without fire,
like water without thirst
and thirst without water,
like wine without years
and years without wine,
like plans without calendars,
and calendars without plans,
like saints without suffering,
and suffering without saints,
like chance without math
and math without chance,
like roads without maps,
and maps without roads,
like crutches without age,
and age without crutches,
like compasses without destinations
and destinations without compasses.
What we are is simply a ship
built with God’s blessing—
slowly approaching the iceberg
He created himself.
We’re just amateur pilots
who pray before flying—
begging Him to move mountains
our eyes will not see.
Christians have become
the most talented jewelers
who only make wedding rings
for prostitutes.
Ravenna, you bear so many crosses,
but where’s your Christ?
Likewise, the world is full of scientists
who can no longer hear the science.
What cross can hold
the branches of knowledge
that built the atomic bomb?
What church can pardon
the philosophies
that justified its use?
Which genius will be crucified
for the sins of science?
Drugs are just chemicals
if you wear a white coat;
torture is only a strategy
if you wave flags of democracy;
the death penalty isn’t murder
if committed in prison;
insanity is just a mental disorder
if observed by psychiatrists;
pollution is simply emission
if it also brings progress;
invasion of privacy is never invasive
when people must be protected.
If no god exists and life
is simply biology,
then science alone
is more useless than Christ.
Science alone is more
dogmatic than Scripture.
There’s no cure for God
or nuclear energy.
Christians will run out
of Christ’s blood
the way Earth will run out of oil.
Yes, sin must drink
from the purest rivers;
it cuts the Middle East’s heart
and pumps blood from the ground—
just to prevent mechanical arthritis;
sin needs uranium to bring light
because candles aren’t
effective enough for bombs.
Like criminals who can’t be redeemed,
medicine only starts praying
for patients when all hope is lost.
We’ve arrived at the hour of night
when even light can’t kill
our desire for sleep.
Dreams are an army trapped
in a world without ideology—
the freedom to declare war exists,
but there’s no reason to do so;
in the morning, ideology wakes
the simplicity of dreams
and begins interpreting
what it has witnessed.
If there’s no reason to declare war,
then we cannot, in good conscience,
say there’s no ideology,
for the very act of stipulating
the belief that there’s no reason
to declare war ultimately constitutes
the precise definition of what,
in fact, an ideology actually is.
Additionally, the concept of dreams
themselves is subject to debate.
For example, do dreams simply
constitute visions people have at night,
or are they part of a bigger paradigm
in the psycho-historical definition of a vision—
a great idea in the minds of noble men
who, unfortunately, ended up using terror
to achieve their ultimate goals?
What is necessary and what is not necessary?
What is necessity and can necessity
be unnecessary if necessity
is necessarily necessary?
If necessity is unnecessary now,
but will become necessary later,
can we truly say that unnecessary necessity
is necessarily unnecessary all the time?
If something is really unnecessary,
does it necessarily need a definition?
What is necessity and what is it not?
Is it defined by need or normative power?
I will define normative power as the ability
to change protected reasons. More precisely,
a man has normative power if he can by an action
of his exercise normative power.
An act is the exercise of a normative power
if there is sufficient reason
for regarding it either as a protected reason
or as cancelling protected reasons
and if the reason for so regarding
it is that it is desirable to enable people
to change protected reasons
by such acts, if they wish to do so.

Logic is like a coroner who thinks
he can find the cause of genius
in Einstein’s corpse.
No, Ravenna, we can’t endure
any more monsters
that defy logic and science,
but the future will force
doctors to pray for you.
Like someone unable to sense pain,
it’s now impossible to feel
how good things will get:
There will be no poverty
and no need for wealth;
no drug abuse and no need for drugs;
no alcoholism and no need for alcohol;
no racism and no need for race;
no country and no need for identity;
no homophobia and no need for gender;
no sexual abuse and no need for sex;
no divorce and no need for marriage;
no animal abuse and no need for animals;
no school violence and no need for school;
no corruption and no need for politicians;
no insanity and no need for personality;
no religion and no need for faith;
no diseases and no need for doctors or hospitals;
no crime and no need for police;
no loneliness and no need for family;
no advertisements and no need for desire;
no borders and no need to travel;
no hunger and no need for food;
no illiteracy and no need to read;
no accidents and no need for attention;
no forgetting and no need to remember;
no problems and no need to improve;
no excess and no need for emotion or poetry;
no sins and no need to repent;
no repentance and no need for church;
no need for church and no need for God;
no need to improve and no need for more science.
Yes, science will kill
all our problems—
then kill itself.
Science is the chemotherapy
for religion, insanity, and hunger.
God, personality, and the need
to eat will all die.
Ravenna, the future will erase
every chance of another monster
being born in your town.
Progress is an architect
who wants to build
the tallest skyscrapers
in a suicidal world.
Progress is a university
where professors never ask questions—
they only give answers.
Destroy your churches, Ravenna,
and make space for development;
kneel before the altar of science—
it will be the all-knowing God.
Who will pray first to the new deity?
Who will build the first
temple to honor it?
Who will it be, Ravenna?
Who? Who? Who?
The world couldn’t sustain
two superpowers,
and it won’t have space
for two supergods.
During the Cold War,
the USSR had nuclear weapons
and the salvation of communism;
the US had nuclear weapons
and the salvation of God.
The weapons of God
are salvation and hell;
the weapons of science
bring salvation and hell.
There’s no more God in God,
and no more science in science.
The telescope’s eyes have seen
the universe’s nakedness,
and the curse of reason
has enslaved humanity since.
Reason made Africa inferior.
Reason invented Orientalism.
Reason didn’t create uranium,
but it justified its use.
Reason caused the Armenian Genocide,
the Holocaust, and other crimes
against biology.
Reason destroyed the devils of religion,
and created mechanized evil instead.
Swords and plagues
no longer bring God
to savages everywhere;
missiles and jets now fly
all over the world,
liberating people from savages—
in the name of Uncle Sam,
his son, and the Natural American Spirit.
Yes, with the greatest science known to Christ,
and the wisest sophistry known to Socrates,
kill the Arabs in the name of God,
kill the Kurds in the name of the Father,
and kill the Persians in the name of the Son.
Ravenna, close the doors
of your basilicas;
take your crosses down.
No prayer can save you
from the monster that’s already born—
a double-headed Goliath
who speaks only the language
of science and logic,
and he lends no one
his ears—they belong only to him.
His enemies are everything
that can’t be understood.
He prays to reason
when formulas are speechless.
He denies his own wish
if it exists outside logic.
He only confesses faults
beyond his control.
He forgives only those
who make reasonable mistakes.
He pities individuals
with rational problems.
He helps people only if their need
is a theory, not a hypothesis.
He respects his neighbors
when they see the world his way.
He’s loyal in marriage
until biology instructs otherwise.
His justice is blind until
law itself undoes the blindfold.
His philosophy is objective until
more groundbreaking logic
changes the paradigm.
He never shows more compassion
than is mathematically necessary.
His inspiration is regimented
like a dictator’s army.
He enjoys killing with the passion of poets
and the precision of portrait painters.
His humility is the discovery
that fully disproves God’s existence.
He’s only patient when people
walk slowly on the road that he built.
He logically seeks peace
when others are stronger,
and wisely changes perspectives
when enemies are weak.
He’s a chameleon during regime changes
and king of the jungle when all predators are killed.
He never preaches or teaches a thing—
his work always speaks for itself.
He has no tolerance for dogma—
only facts which are true now
and will be disproven later.
He can’t stand indoctrination,
but his temples of pedagogy
are full of disciples who’d rather
learn something else.
What person can slay such a monster?
All the Davids in the world
don’t have the strength.
What beast slouches
towards Florence to be born?
What will be the New Testament of Science?
Ravenna, the bells of San Vitale
no longer provide peace;
they also have become too familiar—
like streets you can no longer
lose yourself on,
like people whose every secret
you already know,
like mourners whose sad cries
you’ve grown used to,
like children whose questions
you’ve all answered,
like cognac that’s too young for the glass,
like prayers you’ve committed to memory,
like sins you’ve committed hundreds of times,
like the unfinished dreams of insomniacs,
like compliments paid by careerists,
like love given by prostitutes.
The way oceans can exist without ships,
so a person can be without family;
the way oceans can’t live without waves,
so people can’t be without mystery.
Those who answer difficult questions
pay respect to their books
by building cemeteries to bury them.
Mortals who keep asking questions
only the gods can answer
honor their reason—
they build the grandest libraries
without books but still hope
that someone will bring
what’s needed inside.
What will philosophy do
when all the world’s problems are solved?
What will our problems look like
in a world where philosophy is dead?
1. All men are mortal.
2. Socrates is a man.
3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
This means keep your doors
open for now, Ravenna,
but when science disproves this logic,
no one can die on the cross anymore.
Your churches will be looted
by immortal hands the way
Christians brought down the Greek temples.
Accept your fate, you splendid city
of mosaics, cobblestone streets, and Dante.
The Supreme God is a dictator
who killed rival deities
to consolidate power
and rule humanity alone.
Now, science has come
with its pantheon
of gods to reclaim Olympus,
but science is weak as well;
it couldn’t survive
the temptation of nuclear power.
The devil got his way in Japan,
showing the world that it
lives on energy and matter alone—
always testing its Creator, the universe;
in exchange, Satan has given science
all the world’s kingdoms,
but is there another place—somewhere beyond—
where the suns of the cosmos
resisted this temptation?
Ravenna, what do their physics look like?
How believable are their gods?
Do they need war to bring peace?
Do they need crime to bring justice?
Do they need nations to have cultures?
Do they need temples to have gods?
My question is only this: Are they like us?
Do they need nuclear weapons,
or only nuclear energy?
Are they smart enough
for communism without violence,
or capitalism without greed?
Like animals separated in zoos,
do they need borders and passports
to become civilized?
Do they have locks or only doors?
Do they have political maps
or only geography?
Do they have homelessness
or only homes?
Are they self-conscious
or do they only have mirrors?
Is their world polluted
or do they just try to save it?
Are they racists
or do they only prefer
to be with their own?
Do they lie or simply try
not to hurt others?
Do they hurt each other
or only regret things?
Are they human or merely robots?
Ravenna, what’s humanity?
Why does it exist
like the most poisonous plant
holding the key to a miracle drug?
Why does humanity look like
the most hideous leper
who somehow cured cancer?
What explosion started our universe?
What earthquake began our geography?
What sin brought Christ to us?
What science will kill Christ and sin?
What earthquake will bury our buildings?
What explosion will finish humanity?
When God created hurricanes,
He gave us the mind of palm trees
so we could dance in a storm—
instead, our reason invented the saw
to destroy what the wind can’t.
Ravenna, only the hands of religion
and science have stripped
the white limestone
from the pyramids in Egypt;
those same hands toppled
the Parthenon’s marbles
and reduced churches to rubble.
No, we’re no longer doctors
who want to heal everyone;
we’re the doctors in a war
who only care about our own.
Our legacy is an engineer
who builds impressive bridges
for himself and destroys
the great work of his rivals.
No, the churches of enemies
don’t belong to Christ;
yes, the rockets of our allies
are blessed by God.
If humanity can adopt
other people’s children,
then it should accept
other people’s culture.
If we lose architectural fertility
will we keep destroying?
Like magicians whose secrets
have all been discovered,
faith has taken its last bow
in an empty theater—
all it can do now is walk the streets
like a prostitute who slept
with every man’s eyes.
What hell will bring the last tomorrow
that the last today can pray for?
The future brings hope
like a million asteroids
that are all far away,
but still headed for earth;
it brings hope like a peace treaty
that’s concluded a war,
but made no peace between enemies;
it brings hope like a Bible
in a Las Vegas hotel room;
it brings hope like a prison
whose library lends only calendars,
and the inmates only make clocks;
it brings hope like a doctor
who got sick with the illness
he studied and now cares
about people,
instead of their money.
Hope is a house from
which fate is evicted.
Hungry ones hope to find
extra food for tomorrow;
those who have enough
hope for some flavor;
those with abundant spices
hope for some company;
those who have friends
hope for some loyalty;
those who are loved
hope for promotions;
those who have money
are hungry for more;
those who get rich
shed normal tastes;
those who eat only
Gold Leaf Bread
don’t have much company;
those who are alone
can’t bear the idea of tomorrow.
Ravenna, tell the wealthy
where your riches are now.
Tell them that your churches
and palaces perish as well—
that one day their hands
won’t have the strength
to hold a simple cross.

Poetic Voices