Runner Up ~ Blurred Genre Contest 2019
by Kimberly Andrews


The new midwestern climate of the intellect: Albertus Magnus attempting to reconcile Aristotelian doctrine with the conviction that fundamentally, deep sadness is not productive. Gloom must not cause you to steal beauty products, you must still shower, your suspicions must be formulated as timely critique and not as the ungenerous scorn I often feel towards women with thirteen-step skincare regimens. You are not allowing me the space to be ugly, I think. You are not allowing me the space to say I am not you, I am a series of levers.

* * *

How, then, to explain the temperament of the great philosophers? Although I am not sleeping alone, the fly in the bedroom alights only on me. To wallow in the bitten flesh is pathological; to allow the pincered foot its occasional rest is to maintain an otherwise firm and acceptable disposition. To be energetically anxious is to have people admire your website and your children. I remain in bed, barren and itchy, opening my mouth only in order to let out a mid-pitched and sustained buzzing which I mistake for song.

* * *

More should be made of the fact that original sin was allegedly the product of disobedience in the service of both sweetness and knowledge. My mother leaves her orchids in the sink too long, but instead of drowning, they bloom again and again for her. “I don’t know,” she says, “I tried to kill them and look what happened.” Warmth and moistness, I think to myself, feeling jealous and antiquated. In the 12th century melancholy was first viewed as a hereditary illness except everyone’s father was Adam and the defective gene was Eve.

* * *

The inside of a fig looks like sperm under a microscope racing towards an egg, but in the center of a fig there’s nothing but a pocket of syrup. Sad fig, sweet fig. I buy you at every European market I visit, your heaviness to size ratio feeling to me like an idealized version of my own brain, your body sluggish but with a color that is almost universally praised. It’s remarkable in only the literal sense that capital trains us to consume the brightest products of self-immolating affect.

* * *

Ishâq ben ‘Amrân quoting Hippocrates: “fatigue of the soul comes from the soul’s thinking.” It sounds noble and sometimes it is. Sometimes, though, it’s worrying about the fact that you add “right” to the ends of your sentences a lot and someone you admire said, apropos of not you at all, that that was an Annoying Academic Trait. You think about this for months. You turn away from the internet and the internet stays with you. This is what it must like to be the ridden horse.

* * *

Generally speaking I understand the arguments against pet ownership, but you
must understand also that I regard the blinking of my cat’s eyes as a form of
miracle to which I must bear daily witness. My husband is a dog person, as the
boundless energy of dogs matches his seemingly infinite patience for life, for
the portal of each new morning. I tell him that one of the recommended treatments for persistent melancholy in late antiquity was “moderate sexual intercourse.” Coitus, inquit, pacificat, austeriorum superbiam refrenat. We both laugh, a little sadly.

* * *

Avicenna’s description of the causes of unnatural melancholy adapts well to text-based RPG formatting.

> status
On fire.

> put out fire
You do not have any water. Your condition is unnatural.
> check bile
Burnt to ashes.
> check phlegm
Burnt to ashes.
> check blood
Burnt to ashes.
> check natural melancholy
Your natural melancholy has been burnt to ashes. Your condition is unnatural. You have, however, acquired Skill: Combining Galen’s Canonical Theory Of Combustion With The Doctrine Of The Four Humors.⁠

Kimberly Quiogue Andrews is a poet and literary critic. She is also the author of A Brief History of Fruit, winner of the 2018 Akron Prize for Poetry and forthcoming from the University of Akron Press, and BETWEEN, winner of the 2017 New Women’s Voices Prize from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Maryland and teaches at Washington College, and you can find her on Twitter at @kqandrews.