Kaspar Hauser

Christian Wessels

—Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (1974), dir. Werner Herzog

An apple cannot be tired because

An apple has no life of its own.

If I ask the apple if it feels love, the apple cannot answer.

Does that mean the apple cannot feel love?

If I ask the apple how much it loves the taste of apple,

I am barbaric. I am a Man of Science.

If you roll the apple toward the onion patch, I will stop it

With my heel; if the apple bounces over my foot

The apple does not want to be stopped. Logic tells us

The apple prefers the onion patch.


I know a story about the desert but only the beginning.

It dreamed to me.

When my teacher corrects me—It came to me in

A dream or I dreamt it—I do not ask but wonder

Am I not the object of my dreams? The thing through which

Dreams happen? Otherwise

Wouldn’t I remember what happens after the beginning?


Like a routine test of reflex, my teacher after breakfast

Probes my sense of logic: occasioned

At home by two travelers, one from the village of liars

Another from the village of truth-tellers,

How might I differentiate the two? Before I can answer

My teacher maintains only one syntactical construction

Forces the liar to reveal himself through a double negative:

Do you visit my home from the village of liars?

I know this is not the only question I can ask the liar,

Who must answer in the affirmative when I ask

Are you a tree frog? The truth-teller will answer

I am not a tree frog. I am a tree frog.


I am a tree frog, and the long-necked water bird

Finds me hiding in the onion patch

Next to the apple before, of course, it eats me.

How else could this story end?


I dream of a procession climbing a mountain

Because at the summit the ocean feels near

In sight, and because at the top of the mountain awaits

Death. The dream ends at the summit.

I continue to sleep but a dream no longer happens to me.

I also remember a story about

The desert through which two travelers

Advance to finally find me in the village—

But the story begins there, when they arrive.

I do not remember what happens next.


Tell us the story, tree frog, even if it’s only the beginning.

Christian Wessels is a poet and critic from Long Island. His work has been supported by Boston University, the Stadler Center for Poetry, and the University of Rochester, where he is currently a PhD candidate.
Originally published:
March 4, 2024


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