Power, as if It Were a Thing

There’s really no other beginning for the Hobbledehoy but to be with power or against, or in the name of power to be against, or to be with power in the name


of being against, or to feel on some days that he’s with power and on other days against, or to feel day after day


that he’s against power but wished he had some, or to feel power through unreconstructed afternoons


blinking up and down the nodes of his subtle body like Christmas lights on a plastic tree, disturbingly intimate, if only on display, bewildered


by the taste of power penetrating his thought like a salt or a spice, bewildered as slave, as master, as the oscillation between, hesitating at the shores


of power, in dialogues of hesitation, asking, is there anything at all but power, asking


is power anything at all, willed or unwilled, sighted or blinded, theorized into ground, into void, given cause, genesis, context so as to negotiate, manipulate, escape, is it in nature


or beyond, or so trivially in nature as to be almost beyond, like the blue of the sky only an effect of the scattering of light, he would resist


refuse to act, withdraw from the field, however deep in the field, speak against power arrayed in a language of power, but a power


so removed, so rarefied in quality that really it’s no power at all, unblamable, even winsome, presenting like the bulbous head of a newborn, smelling of lavender, a smiling countenance directed against


the sneering power of others figured in the jagged teeth of predators, politburos, robber barons, brown shirts and war lords, who just reek, in all honesty and yet


however wholesome and good, however ranged against other power, without the sanction of power how in the morning


would he rise from the comfort of his couch, throw open the flap of his tent and start his day, his sword at the ready but with no pretext to wield it, what if it happened


that he walked out into a picture-book world of virtue where every fly, dog, whale, robin, dragon, flour mill, swinging bridge, cultivated prairie and kitchen appliance was perfectly secure and whole in the expression of its own peculiar being, what would be left


for him to enact, his sword dangling at his side like a joke-store prop, he would fall into inertia, boredom, decline, extinction, impossible


to imagine, at every moment captured, the Hobbledehoy must be with power, or against power, with or against


however subtly he frames or hedges the question, however diffidently he walks, with or against, no matter how quiet or how ragged, even violent, his breath, with or against


no matter how turbulent or placid its face, power without objecting to his bewilderment goes on


coiling and uncoiling as if it were a nature, spouting from its jaws oceans of biography, solemn documentaries, murmuring monologues, catalogs, genealogies and recitations, so that he nods


off to its dreamy voice-over, in pleasant slumber, believing that all is well, wondering why anybody would be so out of season to object, still there’s something


primitive, something mild that would question power, or make power a question, in the room with him, in the night with him, in his head, a hopeless


question, a stupid question, a childish more than a childlike question you might say, which however confused keeps


posing and composing in his mirror like a method actor, like a child at make-believe, like all the saints, idiots and martyrs who ever lived, like rishis balancing by the river on spiral toenails, like gopis or Catholic girls passionately in love with the Lord, like anybody and nobody struggling to wake from a sleep.



M.W. Miller has appeared in Malahat Review, Capilano Review, Georgia Straight, Danforth Review and Dalhousie Review. He recommends the UN Relief Agency.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, August 21, 2023 - 18:57