The Man Who Vanished

By Gianmarc Manzione
Originally published in The Paris Review 173 (2005): 236-237.

Assembling unsheathed cloves of garlic

on the butcher block,

shuffling through them

with a favorite kitchen knife

perfect for mincing,

he suddenly found himself

invisible,

having actually become what he was

doing, the hypnotism

with which the knife’s slight curve rolled

through the mound of garlic,

the sticky juice on his fingers,

the warmth of the water

he rinsed them with

and the oiled pan

waiting on the stove—

things that tempted him to vanish

into themselves

because, among other powers,

they could not be captured

by the longing to be something

other than what they were—

and he understood

that among the passions

capable of moving him

this was one

he could take or leave,

yet it still seemed indispensable

somehow,

even limitless,

he imagined,

because it could not be touched,

it could not be held closer

to the body in the night

or even make the passing hour

as livable as all that—

it was only peace,

only the thing he’d been waiting for

but could never recognize

when it was given, incidental

and so effortless

as to be trivial.