Mandatory Compulsion

Mandatory Compulsion

The sharper the shaper the starker the stalker. As though some
Genius loci or all-seeing eye had suddenly got hold of me.

The eye was like a hurricane’s, or the yoke of an egg.
Like a blind man in a clock shop you can hear the ticking

But you can’t see the hands. You have no slide rule with which
To perform the altercations. But I’m as much me as I can be.

If it’s less you than you can be don’t blame the admiralty.
The loyalty and usefulness of dogs, the beauty and grace

Of cats. There are two ways to destroy this debacle. Or rather to
Enjoy this tabernacle. The Pied Piper walking along the streets

Of Manhattan, humming a show tune, another “boffo number.”
Or washing your hands a hundred times a day, and how it’s like

Praying. Or how praying isn’t so different from OCD, however
Sincerely it’s meant to be. I should know. But the Lord knows

Best. Sad or glad, one size would fit all if we didn’t need an
Infinite redress. The line of vision is always being interrupted

By the nosegay of desire. I can see for miles and miles. Where’s
The fun in that, old man, in the interest of pulling your

Chain? The single, solitary dog who had the guts to bark at him
As the troops retreated. Meanwhile her ex-husband is survived by

His second wife, much to the discomfiture of her paramour
Or imprimatur. The bells and whistles would feel much better,

If only one could play them without the “tits and feathers.”
A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life.



Ian Ganassi’s poetry, prose and translations have appeared in more than 100 literary magazines, including New American Writing, The Yale Review, and New England Review. Recent news includes poems in First Literary Review-East, Otoliths, and forthcoming in Amp, Poetry Pacific and Bending Genres.  His poetry collection Mean Numbers was published in 2016. His new collection, True for the Moment is due out in the fall of 2019 from MadHat Press. Selections from an ongoing collaboration with a painter can be found at


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - 21:48