Gary Percesepe ~ Where We Are Now

Daniel Berrigan tells a sto­ry about a con­queror who comes into our city. He is a huge, super­hu­man fig­ure, and is pre­ced­ed by rumors of invin­ci­bil­i­ty. He has con­quered every­where and our city is next. We are afraid and there is noth­ing to be done except make peace with him; he is all pre­vail­ing. He comes clos­er and clos­er, and we begin to notice that he has no army; he is all alone. Yet we know that his army must be near­by because, after all, he has con­quered every­where. Even if he comes alone, the army will fol­low. So we sur­ren­der the city, give him the keys, bow before him. And he stands there, and we wait and wait until, slow­ly, the con­queror rais­es his hand, lifts the visor of his hel­met as though he is going to speak. And then we see that there is no head in the hel­met, noth­ing behind the visor, there is noth­ing there. Absolutely noth­ing. The con­queror is a huge vac­u­um. Outside our fear he does not exist. And yet we have giv­en up our city. We are par­a­lyzed and can­not move, can­not unite, can­not be truth­ful, can­not com­mand our­selves and our com­mu­ni­ty. We have giv­en in to fear. We have learned the way of pow­er pol­i­tics. And what­ev­er this law­less cor­rupt white nation­al­ist crea­ture does to us now is much less than what we have already done to ourselves.


Gary Percesepe is the author of eight books, most recent­ly The Winter of J, a poet­ry col­lec­tion pub­lished by Poetry Box. He is Associate Editor at New World Writing. Previously he was an assis­tant fic­tion edi­tor at Antioch Review. His work has appeared in Christian Century, Maine Review, Brevity, Story Quarterly, N + 1, Salon, Mississippi Review, Wigleaf, Westchester Review, PANK, The Millions, Atticus Review, Antioch Review, Solstice, and oth­er places. He resides in White Plains, New York, and teach­es phi­los­o­phy at Fordham University in the Bronx.