“Setting Up the Debate” by Erik Kennedy

Reading by the author

I was putting out the chairs for the debate that night. A woman from one of the campaigns came up to me and asked, ‘Is there an odd number of chairs?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. Does it matter?’ ‘Yes. Neither of the candidates will take the stage tonight if there isn’t an odd number of chairs for the audience.’ ‘But that’s crazy,’ I said. ‘Well my candidate is crazy. Not sure about the other one, but mine is like a floor covered in mousetraps. He’s serious about the chair thing. He also holds singing meetings on Fridays.’ ‘Singing meetings?’ ‘Anyone who has anything to say has to sing it.’ ‘That sounds beautiful,’ I said. ‘It is. We want to bring beauty back into politics. So make sure you put out an odd number of chairs. And put one of these on each seat.’ She handed me a stack of A5 flyers. All they said, in 72 point Impact, was ‘VOTE, YOU MORONS.’ ‘Is this beautiful?’ I asked. ‘Beauty doesn’t have to be nice,’ she said.

Erik Kennedy is the author of There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press 2018), and is co-editing a book of climate change poetry from New Zealand and the Pacific forthcoming from Auckland University Press in 2021. His poems, stories, and criticism have recently been published in places like Fence, Maudlin House, Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, TLS, and Western Humanities Review. Originally from New Jersey, he is living in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Image: “Sew Anything” by Nicole Monroe

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