Diderot’s Stroll




I tried to go for a walk today

but the high tide washed away

the alphabet.


So I picked up a stone

that contained “all the shape

and hardness of the world” and

threw it as far as I could

into the muted surf.


The ripples reached foreign shores,

sparking beautiful conversations

in languages I could not understand.


Disappointed, I walked into a bank,

tried to withdraw a dictionary

or at best a thesaurus,

but instead witnessed logic and reason

dissecting beauty with a penknife

on the teller’s linoleum counter top.


Outside on the sidewalk pigeons shimmied

up the steel legs of a wheelchair.

I checked the water once again

as I crossed the bridge but only

rainbow oil slicks and rainbow boats

ferried more languages I could not understand.


Amongst the driftwood and crumpling sheet metal

there were a million lives doing a million important things

but lightly stepping, crushing them,

carelessly putting out a cigarette,

I still felt cheated out of a walk.


One was not enough so I lit another

and inhaled and exhaled and inhaled

and cursed the rising tide

and dreamed of yellow rubber boots

and tried ever so hard to quiet the smoke.


I tried to return home

but a freight train derailed

my thoughts.


I took the tulip from my pocket,

brushed off the lint,

held it up to the conductor’s nose

and asked: “Can you hear it?”


To my surprise she said she could.

In celebration we chinked our glasses.

She kept gin hidden in her pinstriped overalls and

even though her interpretation was different from mine

it was still an interpretation.


I visited friends at the Railway Club

congratulating them on their hiring practices

all the while condemning the sea for its stubborn naturalness.


When the ripples had finally rebounded from

exciting foreign shores I immediately

picked them up and translated them into this:

“Stop throwing stones” or “Please do not feed the fish.”


I called up everyone in the phonebook under “A” to

sign a petition that read: write, but the mayor said I was being

too lettrist and proceeded to hold a pancake

breakfast for everyone from B to Z.

“Leave the politics to the A’s” he said.

It turns out the conversation was

dull without the A’s, and no one liked the

pancakes at all. In the end the petition was signed

by everyone from A to Z. When I

finally had it rolled up, tied with a sexy

red ribbon, fit into a bottle with a fresh

cork and placed in the sea,

I waited, in vain, for high tide to wash it up somewhere

else — at the edge of horizon even the alphabet is different.




- Nicholas Hauck