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Scott F. Parker

Between Other Countries

Landscape by Elena Botts



None of the following is true. None of it. Including the Liar’s Paradox part, which will (not) prove central.


My nostalgia is a circle. Better, a spiral. It is for itself, but its self is always expanding in a dimension only apparent from—See, what I mean is this: I wrote the future in which I will write the past. Recall: when you were a child deciding whether or not self-consciousness was, all things considered, a good idea, and you went to your parents and asked their opinion on the matter and they said to you exactly what.

This is what we mean by decision.

[the full text of this section is no longer intact]

. . . is a breath . . . [indecipherable] . . . and . . . to follow is not always to follow when the worn path leads . . . [indecipherable] . . . nothing is lost here, she said, it’s only lost there . . .


Logan invites me over for a lunchtime beer. I don’t want beer just now, but neither do I want to miss an opportunity to feel sort bohemian. Logan wears a beard and so we drink Guinness. Logan doesn’t own a TV or a computer (or, for that matter, a bed). Instead he has a stack of books, a box full of ropes, and a chalkboard. He pours our beers into pint glasses so we can watch them cascade, then he walks to the chalkboard and writes:

The following sentence is true.

The preceding sentence is false.

Which is sometimes known as the Cretan Paradox, after Epimenides. Liar’s Paradox is more intuitive. Additionally, some know it as a good way to feel smarter than you really are. Or vice versa. Simultaneously. Correctly.

I remember thinking in that moment that—No, no I don’t remember.


They tell you to dance. Ha! They tell you to dance?

Do they know not of dancing?

Have they not themselves danced?

Take the gun away from your temple.

Dancing? I been dancing.


Between thoughts, how far is it to heaven? Zeno never arrives. Halt, she said again. I’ve already halted, responded no one at all.

Instructions for locating shortcut. It’s a matter of concision: This sentence is false. Repeat. Continue. Halt. Repeat. Continue. Halt.


Dear David Chalmers,

Please accept this gift. It’s a small (and, dear God, I wish it were smaller) piece of my neural circuitry that I will no longer be using. I appreciate brains, but I’m trying to get down to the essentials here. So anything that can go must go. I trust this component will be of use to you as amass your stockpiles.

May your dreams come true and computing power grow infinite. Think of me sometimes as I trudge along with only what my mama gave me.


Scott F. Parker, human

P.S. Lost your address during this cleaving. Trusting fortune this package finds you. Irony not lost on me.


Here I am once again now forever always. I breathe and I am breathed. I sun and I am sunned. Water and am watered. Choose your verbs, choose your nouns. I’ve chosen mine.



So I have crossed land and come . . . to more land. Outside the car hotels and swimming pools in space, stars, and college kids drunk on someone else’s dreams, all of them. In the car a jug of water (mostly full), toilet paper (stolen), and me (sleeping). In the morning, more land. And cactus. These dreams discarded.


Here now alone, I’ve crossed a divide, a one-way invisible mirror. The town has vanished. What town asks the sky. I am walking legs, shooting camera, some water, and fearful heart. But hopeful.

The only thing keeping me alive is the barrier between me and not-me—the blood in, the poison out, the air passing back and forth, permeating all borders. I unzip my pants and let the wind take an arc of piss where it will. The stream evaporates quickly. I continue.


How will the last survivor among us recall the rest?

The trees here are the drawings of trees I expect from a god who has never seen a tree. Thick lines of green crayon shooting off a straight brown trunk, branches added after the fact. The sun is heavy, resting despite my half-assed precautions (hat and sunscreen) right on my shoulder. Survival is its own hardship.

If someone were here with me now what could they possibly say?


The sauce in Taco Bell’s “cheese quesadilla” is not good sauce, but when you’re sleeping in your car (borrowed) and stealing toilet paper what do you expect.


I’m having a hallucination. No, a fantasy. It’s all in my head. Imagination. Desire. Loneliness. Product of isolation. We die alone, all of us. I need to be consoled. She emerges, a shape—two sticks supporting curves and strings flapping in the breeze. Her sundress whispers of water and good news. We converge. She is not afraid of this place. And even so, there’s no consolation.



When my father gave mass he offered only what he believed there was to offer: no more. The sins of the father, they say.

I bring news, they say, good news.

Offer me this, I say, all of it. I refuse to remain impermeable.

Walk with me in this desert.

—There. Do you see it? —Where? —There. —Yes, I see it. —Come.

In silence, they continue.


About the writer:
Scott Parker is the author of the forthcoming A WAY HOME: OREGON ESSAYS, among other books. His essays have appeared in many publications, including Tin House, Sport Literate, and Oregon Humanities.

Image: Landscape by Elena Botts (contemporary). Digital image. No technical information specified. 2021. By permission.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporationsupporting writers and artists worldwide.

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