Another Dose of Immortality

watercolor of barbed wire

[watercolor by John Abbott]


Horror Vacui


The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.

–Walter Benjamin


1 January 1993, Orem

His feet are livid, I wrote. His face is drawn, an open eye leers upward. My own leering eye hunts images from the past and when they flash up delivers them to my inadequate pen.


6 January 1993, Orem

Dream: I was beating up John. I was on top of him, pounding him, blind with rage. Then pain! My testicles! John had grabbed my balls. He controlled me. The turnabout was inconceivable.

In a second dream I searched for John in downtown Farmington. I found him working in a small pizza place, and we talked for a minute before he had to return to his dough. I walked through town looking for Dad. I found him sitting at the counter of a café drinking a cup of coffee. He looked like a derelict, his shirt torn, thin stubble scattered across his drawn face. He was embarrassed to be seen with coffee.


7 January 1993, Provo

Nearly a foot of snow during the night. I’m in the cave of my office, a single light burning, snow falling softly outside.

“A boy he picked up in his Alfa Romeo sports car ran him over with it and left him helpless in the dust. . . . Pasolini spent so much time in the lower depths because he found them ethically preferable to the heights.” So writes Clive James in the New Yorker. I’m afraid I have been seeing John as the victim of a sordid accident, in some romantic way more moral than the rest of us. Ten years ago Žarko and I argued about Pasolini. In response to what he called my moralizing, Žarko maintained that an artist can’t restrict himself. As soon as you refuse to experience everything, he told me, you close yourself to the sources of art. Pasolini is profoundly subversive, as is art. If you can’t stomach Pasolini, you’ll end up a repressed, reactionary, unfulfilled, narrow-minded, bitter, bourgeois shell of a man. I responded that his string of adjectives exemplified moralizing.

A wall always separated me from John. I have been distant from other siblings as well, from my parents, from my wife. From myself. The wall metaphor is misleading, I think. There is no wall. I am the wall. To reach my brother I must destroy myself, must risk obliteration as the self I have become. And what will rise from the rubble? It won’t be a wall.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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