• By Richard Katrovas

A Riff on Abstraction



Evil is the systematic substitution of the abstract for the concrete.

- Sartre


As in “concrete” as well as “abstract,” and though

I cannot help but wonder if a system,

constructed for the purpose of control,

contrasting with all systems found in nature,

is doomed to doom all that it must contain.


And how may we regard the paradox

Of systems grounded in desire for freedom?

The civilizing impulse is control

Of all that is sustaining and fecund.


Each child of mine I’ve held, fresh from the flesh

Of her mother, has been a joy incarnate,

The word made flesh to my decaying flesh,

An object of intense, sustained regard


Beyond the auspices of abstract nouns.

I wish each one freedom from her father.

As all dances are systems of movement,

I wish each one ecstatic movement through


The backstage doors of “pain” and “fear” and “sorrow,”

Onto the boards before an audience

Of angels, demons, and divine accountants

All weeping at the end, applauding madly.


Richard's forthcoming collection is entitled "The Woman with a Cat on Her Shoulder" from Carnegie Mellon University Press. His "Chained to a Tree: A Memoir in Essays about Poets and the Fools Who Love Them" is forthcoming at about the same time from Louisiana State University Press. He is the founding director of the Prague Summer Program, and teaches at Western Michigan University.

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