Experiments by John Mortara



spend an entire morning with a coin of your choosing.

arrange your day into binary decisions like go out or stay hometake the car or ride your bikeeat waffles or eat pancakesdrink coffee or sip tea.

allow the coin to take the wheel for a little.

increase the complexity of these impasses every hour.

heads says you love her and tails says you don’t.

flip again to decide the severity of your fresh emotions.

now think about all the wonderfully-new universes that have branched out of your body.

tossing this old quarter for twenty years and i am finally out the front door.

george washington tells me i’m beautiful and the eagle says bless your heart.




roll a pair of non-identical dice.

did you roll a cumulative four?

if you did roll a cumulative four, congratulations on your four.

if not, try again.

did you get a six or an eight? great.

now think about your six or your eight and think about how many times you’ve seen just six or eight of something.

one time i was driving down route 80 through pennslyvania and i stopped just to be sure.

one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, yes, eight.

eight trees growing out of an abandoned farm plot.

eight trees exactly and absolutely nothing forever and ever on.

the eighth was hard to find but when i saw it i knew:

it grew right through the dead barn and straight out the roof.




walk to the busiest intersection with the most foot traffic.

it is important that you walk.

do you have a piece of paper and a pen?

if not, turn back.

don’t you dare ask someone for help. good.

now use this piece of paper and pen to list the colors you see people wearing as they pass:

green, brown, red, pink, green, black, red, yellow, blue, brown, and so on.

compile your list until you are out of space on the page.

as soon as that happens go home and plot the colors along the spectrum.

take the mean, the median, and the mode.

select the following three days’ dress accordingly.

today i am wearing gray and tomorrow i am wearing gray.




go climb the nearest mountain

climb it until there isn’t any mountain left

climb it until the mountain stops

being a mountain

until the planet is just a canyon

rest your head on a rock and look up

maybe your eyes will first see constellations

they were mapped by other men

draw your own

connect the lights into all the names you have ever uttered

connect the lights into all the hurts you have ever held

take the remaining embers and build yourself a new body

i confess now the thought of this terrifies me

that i have wanted this

like i have wanted anything

but i am just too heavy to climb

all this hurt still in my hands and i swear i can feel the whole damned universe

about to drop out from beneath me





john mortara is a foggy windshield in northampton, massachusetts. john mortara's spirit animal is soul-crushing ennui. john mortara has a website that is johnmortara.com but there be dragons.