Looking Away Shall Be My Only Negation

Who am I to complain at the alarm battering my ears or the day draped across the trees like a rug waiting to be beaten? It’s so hard saying something nice on such days, a buzzing like flies in my head, unpaid bills circling in scavenging Vs over the wilderness of my desk. It’s helpful at these times to remember how Nietzsche (even Nietzsche) complimented his hostess one December evening on her strudel, how he gave a little bow from the waist that seemed to expand with each party attended, as the universe may or may not have even then been doing. His manners beyond good or evil, he graciously accepted an amaro digestif, oblivious to the crumbs collected in his beard. To draw his attention, Mlle. Hobart the hypnotist’s assistant waggled in subtle arcs her delicate fingers—alas, she had assimilated without knowledge her mentor’s art: Herr Nietzsche fell into a mesmeric trance.

“Amor fati, amor fati, amor fati…” he intoned again and again, a latinate phrase the guests took to be a woman’s name (or, more scandalously, a man’s), as Nietzsche rose and went to the tapestry hung on the wall above the fire. Among the intricate weavings brought through hazard from Persia he found and touched his finger to the flaw in the lower left quadrant no one had noticed until then.

“Here am I,” he said—a discolored knot rising slightly above the field of flowers and geometry. “Were one to avert one’s eyes from this constituent wart, the whole would collapse in dust and ash.” Then he wiped away the crumbs finally noted, and reclaimed his place at the table. Having paid little attention to the sequence for dispelling such transfixion, Mlle. Hobart wept helplessly, and Nietzsche continued so spellbound for the last year of his life.

The tapestry was in time removed to an SS colonel’s house (when looking away was all the fashion), before landing implausibly in the rented Paris apartment of Mlle. Hobart, who—wrongfully branded a collaborator—watched her auburn hair shower like petals onto the faded floraline. The promised dust and ash settled likewise across Europe as further still the arras outran its fate and the love of its befalling. Just yesterday I came across it in an artist’s studio in San Rafael. I wiped my boots in tribute on the worn nap, noting how the late day’s sun fell hesitantly on its flaws and perfections, as light sometimes will in winter.


Jeff Ewing is a writer from Northern California. He’s had stories and poems recently in ZYZZYVA, Willow Springs, Catamaran Literary Reader, Atlanta Review, and Saint Ann’s Review, with new work coming up in SmokeLong Quarterly, Lake Effect, Dunes Review, and Bridge Eight. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.