Transcript of Sister Mary Appassionata’s Address to the Counterfactualism Conference

The meaning of our history can be
enhanced by changing this or that, a dream
of other outcomes
, my topic for today
was going to be, but Mother Nature called
me to a historical movement of my own.

If you change truth, what am I to think
I knew? You people love to ask what if?
If Yahweh had suckered Adam with that peach,
and made the man bear babies in great pain,
women today could get off their backs.

Eve’s daughters would go out to hunt and dig.
If Jesus on his ass had gotten hailed,
hosannaed, whipped, and nailed as Savior
of the Palestinians, there’d be new suicides
at six and eleven. I know one thing

for sure, almost: if Hannibal had pancaked
Rome with his band of circus pachyderms,
I’d have studied Carthagenian, not Latin—
at St. Dumbo or St. Hamilcar. If Hitler made
that school of art, Barnes and Noble stores

would be in trouble without the tiers
of swastikas that scream from bloody covers.
If only evil didn’t thrill the spine
like Ecstasy or oral sex. Que sera,
sera
, our worried mothers sang—but if

their pain is flicked away with cyber ticks,
if we fiddle with truth like Japanese historians
then love is always, ever what was not.
Let’s diddle with the past, but only if
it shows the way to atone for what we are.

About David Citino:
David Citino is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, most recently The News and Other Poems (University of Notre Dame Press) and The Book of Appassionata: Collected Poems and The Invention of Secrecy (both from Ohio State University Press). Paperwork (Kent State University Press), a collection of essays, was published in 2004. He is contributing editor of The Eye of Poetry: Six Views of the Art and Craft of Poetry (Oxford), and teaches at Ohio State, where he is Poet Laureate of the University.