Compatibilist – Ken Babstock

Awareness was intermittent. It sputtered.
And some of the time you were seen
asleep.

So trying to appear whole
you asked of the morning: Is he free
who is not free from pain? It started to rain
a particulate alloy of flecked grey: the dogs

wanted out into their atlas of smells; to pee
where before they had peed, and might
well pee again – thought it isn’t

a certainty. What is? In the set,
called Phi, of all possible physical worlds
resembling this one, in which, at time t,

was written ‘Is he free who is not free – ‘
and comes the cramp. Do you want
to be singular, onstage, praised, or blamed? I watched a field of sun-
flowers dial their ruddy faces toward
what they needed and was good. At noon

they were chalices upturned, gilt-edged,
and I lived in that same light but felt
alone. I chose to phone my brother,

over whom I worried, and say so.
He whispered, lacked affect. He’d lost
my record collection to looming debt. I

forgave him – through weak connections,
through buzz and oceanic crackle –
immediately, without choosing to,

because it was him I hadn’t lost; and
later cried myself to sleep. In that village
near Dijon, called Valley of Peace,

a pond reflected its dragonflies
over a black surface at night, and
the nuclear reactor’s far-off halo

of green light changed the night sky
to the west. A pony brayed, stamping
a hoof on inlaid stone. The river’s reeds

lovely, but unswimmable. World death
on the event horizon; vigils with candles
in cups. I’ve mostly replaced my records,

and acted in ways I can’t account for.
Cannot account for what you’re about
to do. We should be held and forgiven

Compatibilist, by Ken Babstock

Awareness was intermittent. It sputtered.

And some of the time you were seen

asleep. So trying to appear whole

you asked of the morning: Is he free

who is not free from pain? It started to rain

a particulate alloy of flecked grey: the dogs

wanted out into their atlas of smells; to pee

where before they had peed, and might

well pee again – thought it isn’t

a certainty. What is? In the set,

called Phi, of all possible physical worlds

resembling this one, in which, at time t,

was written ‘Is he free who is not free – ‘

and comes the cramp. Do you want

to be singular, onstage, praised,

or blamed? I watched a field of sun-

flowers dial their ruddy faces toward

what they needed and was good. At noon

they were chalices upturned, gilt-edged,

and I lived in that same light but felt

alone. I chose to phone my brother,

over whom I worried, and say so.

He whispered, lacked affect. He’d lost

my record collection to looming debt. I

forgave him – through weak connections,

through buzz and oceanic crackle –

immediately, without choosing to,

because it was him I hadn’t lost; and

later cried myself to sleep. In that village

near Dijon, called Valley of Peace,

a pond reflected its dragonflies

over a black surface at night, and

the nuclear reactor’s far-off halo

of green light changed the night sky

to the west. A pony brayed, stamping

a hoof on inlaid stone. The river’s reeds

lovely, but unswimmable. World death

on the event horizon; vigils with candles

in cups. I’ve mostly replaced my records,

and acted in ways I can’t account for.

Cannot account for what you’re about

to do. We should be held and forgiven.