“Before the Soup (After Kafka)” by Gary Barwin

Chaplin How He Does It (photoplayvolume11112chic_1253)

Before the Soup (After Kafka)

by Gary Barwin


A gatekeeper sits before the gate. As always, it stands open. A traveller asks to be let in.       “No.”


“Maybe,” the gatekeeper says. “But understand that though I am powerful, I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. Before each of the many gates, one after the other, there are other gatekeepers, each more powerful than the next. For instance, I can’t manage even one look at the third.”

“I understand,” the traveller says. “But you look hungry. Have some soup.” The traveller takes a bowl and spoon from his greatcoat and offers some to the gatekeeper. As he does, he trips, and trying to not to spill the soup, stumbles through the gate. He staggers past the first gatekeeper and, still balancing the soup, staggers past the second gatekeeper and the second gate, and as he stumbles through the third gate, he spills soup on the third gatekeeper, so terrible to behold,

“Sorry, sorry,” he says as continues to stumble, now past the fourth gatekeeper, more terrible still, and the fourth gate.

The traveller continues to stagger. He continues to stumble past both gates and gatekeepers, spilling soup on many. He may be stumbling still. It is a mystery not easily understood and he has left his bowl and spoon on the outside.


gary barwin headshot

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, multimedia artist and the author of twenty books of poetry, fiction and books for children. His recent books include the national bestselling novel, Yiddish for Pirates (Random House Canada) and the short fiction collection, I, Dr. Greenblatt, Orthodontist, 251-1457. A new poetry collection, No TV for Woodpeckers (Wolsak & Wynn) will appear next year. A PhD in music composition, Barwin has been Writer-in-Residence at Western University and Young Voices E-Writer-in-Residence at the Toronto Public Library, and has taught creative writing at a number of colleges and universities. Currently, he is writer-in-residence at several shelters/custody facilities with ArtForms’ “Writers in the House” program for at-risk youth. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario where he hopes one day to translate Kafka into Klingon.

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