I was visiting a friend in Salt Lake’s Intermountain LDS Hospital yesterday. Despite his chemotherapy and despite the tubes attached to him, we had a good conversation about poetry and clouds and food and other things. Leaving the hospital, I stepped into 100-degree heat and into a complex situation.

A skinny man wearing only a hospital gown and hospital booties and trailing an oxygen tube was surrounded by three hospital security officers with hand-held radios, a policeman, and four hospital attendants wearing scrubs. They kept their distance from the escapee, who held an unlit cigarette in one hand. He approached an officer and asked if she had a light. No, sir, I don’t have a light, she said. He waved the cigarette in the air, turned and started down the sidewalk, followed, at a respectful distance, by his attendants. The sun beat down on him and his boney knees and his wild white hair and his scantily covered flesh. He turned into a tiny park with three benches. He approached a man sitting on one of them, gestured with his cigarette, and the man offered him a light. He sat down on a bench and satisfied his desire.

I drove away thinking about freedom and desire.


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
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s