Matthew Vollmer


here lies a man who as a boy would follow his father into the woods and worry that he would be left behind because what if his father wasn't actually his father but an android or a highly sophisticated robot or even a sort of shapeshifting alien which of course he was not or so the son figured even though sometimes the idea took hold so fiercely that the boy became nearly paralyzed with fear for they were so deep in the woods and so far away from home and of course he couldn't share this information slash fear with his alien father who moved quickly through the trees often allowing limbs to slap backwards and hit the boy in his face because if he did say something who knows the alien father might have no choice but to terminate the experiment which was could two alien parents raise two children i.e. the boy and his sister without them knowing that they meaning the parents were aliens or androids or whatever they were and yes of course this was only the result of a hyperactive imagination since in truth the boy's parents were kind and good and generous to a fault which was probably why the deceased entertained such thoughts in the first place since other fathers he knew had cheated on or divorced their wives because they didn't like them any more or because their wives had contracted degenerative muscular diseases and then these fathers had abandoned them for women who were not as nice or attractive as the first though maybe these second wives were better in bed a thought that would not cross the deceased's mind until many years later when he looked back upon a friend who was the product of quote unquote a broken home a friend who seemed from the perspective of the deceased to have the world as his proverbial oyster meaning that he was allowed to ride his bike wherever and whenever he wanted and who lived at his mother's trailer or his father's lake house or in an apartment behind his father's dental office which the deceased thought was incredibly cool not only because it had a light switch cover that featured a fat chef with his fly open thus granting the illusion that the light switch itself was a nubby penis one flipped up or down to magically create light but also because the deceased's friend was basically given full reign over cable tv and radio meaning he was allowed to listen to the album thriller which had been banned in the deceased's home and to watch classic films like ghostbusters which had also been banned in the deceased's home not only because of bad language but also probably because like thriller both mediums presented the idea that the dead could come back and that there were such things as ghosts when in fact his parents and the deceased and his sister and his entire family going back for generations refused to believe thanks to their interpretation of the holy bible in ghosts or rather they believed that a ghost if you happened to be unlucky enough to encounter one was a manifestation of satan who from the very beginning had taken the form of a snake and in order to convince eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had promised that she would not surely die and thus the world's first lie would come to find itself reproduced over and over again in stories and song and this idea still rang true in the deceased's mind as he had to admit how tantalizing it was to believe in the supernatural or to even pretend to believe in invisible forces that were engaged in vast conspiracies which was probably what he was up to back in the woods trying to convince himself that his father was not who he claimed to be a man who ended up after many years of life to be a life form as familiar and alien as anything the deceased had ever known



and here lies a man who every week cleaned who took out the trash who separated the recycling who organized his waste who shaved who cleaned out the sink after he shaved and cut his own hair a man who mowed his lawn who raked his leaves onto giant tarps and then wrapped them like burritos and tugged them onto the street where they rotted for weeks before getting sucked up by the city a man who hosed out his gutters of dead rotting leaves that smelled somehow of pig manure who swept his porches who gathered the fading and rumpled and mangled bats and balls in the yard and returned them to their places or chucked them into the shadows of shrubs bordering the yard who gathered the dog's waste with either a plastic bag by shoving his hand into it inside out or by using a plastic hand clamp machine that pried it from the grass and then deposited the waste into a bag a man who dusted and vacuumed who rinsed dishes who folded clothes who let things get out of order then retrieved them who washed loads of laundry and folded his son's and wife's undergarments and their shirts and pants and shorts and towels and washcloths a man who dragged files into a representation of a silver wire mesh wastebasket that resembled exactly the one underneath his desk a man who took off his shoes most of the time before treading on the carpet of his home and felt guilty when he didn't want to waste the time to take them off especially when he knew he'd need to put them on again in a few minutes or even seconds a man who left footprints upon the stairs which he tried sometimes to erase from the carpet with his hands because he knew his wife didn't like knowing he'd walked on the carpet with his shoes on a man who lotioned his scalp to prevent dandruff and who dusted the dandruff from his coat shoulders a man who alphabetized his books who once separated his son's lego bricks by color into plastic bags a man who sorted the recycling who shoveled ash from the mouth of his fireplace who made his bed who piled things up who stashed who became adept at hiding what he didn't want found who in the end will disappear and leave remains to be dealt with and collections to be gathered or distributed a man who will someday be forgotten altogether and once thought that to be terrifying but now thinks that it seems like a fire's light slowly disappearing absolutely okay







i can't remember how i got the idea of writing epitaphs about past versions of myself but i liked that form and as a fiction writer also liked the idea of writing non-fiction in third person. saying no to punctuation also felt right and became a way of generating energy and forcing me to use words in a way that would suggest where the pauses, if any, should come. i can definitely say that i was reading matthew zapruder's COME ON ALL YOU GHOSTS when i first started composing the epitaphs; what an amazing and wonderful book that is.