People on Sunday (1930)

Now they really are involved, drinking
Coffee with the elms behind them. The trick
To wet the coiled paper slowly so the day
Expands like a writhing insect
As trash is swept up and the resultant street
Hosed down, not everyone is free to brag
In the black and white sunshine.
It gets in the eyes of the mechanic during his
Rotations of the left front wheel
Spinning like the crowds around a monument.
Okay, fine, but what about tomorrow?
Done. The rest is knitting outdoors
Or no, she was petting a struggling cat
That from a distance looked to be
Complacent wool while she stood there.
Barge after barge follows this mistake
Along the major river she considers
While getting ready, starting with her nails,
But maybe she doesn’t want to go out
Yet, ambivalence of lying back down
With one’s shoes still on. Jacket off,
He’s proud of his surroundings, the two
Bottles on a table by a single glass.
Amazingly, they are in the same apartment
Reading parts of a single paper
By the inadvertent clock of a faucet
Leaking. It’s not even Sunday yet
Nor are they actors, but it’s time to change

Clothes, sweep the face with a lathered brush
By a wall with photographs of film stars on it.
You use a scissors, I’ll use razor and soap
And for some reason we’ll both go to work
Destroying their faces after having gone
To great lengths to collect and mount them.
It’s a prelude to going out in our best
Or will they, maybe an argument about
How she’s chosen to wear her hat first,
A bit of a scene in which more photographs
Get destroyed. Or forget photos actually,
We can play cards now that there are two men
Present and she’ll have to watch
Sunday punish her without access to its images
Of smoke from a chimneystack, a man asleep
On a park bench, collective living
Pursued in a single bed. Only now
Is it Sunday. He wakes first and washes up,
Tries to rouse her somewhat roughly
But she is not yet there in the way he is
So he leaves a note by the cards and glasses
On the table at which he’d sat with the other
Man and goes. There are so many like him
Outside, and monuments, arches to be
Passed through in a car, and of course
The bridges, the smoke. That which can’t be
Passed through or under can still be passed by,
Advertisements on the sides of apartments,
Windows, trains, and trees. They’re all going
To the same unrevealed place, half an arrow.
Shy in the best friend role, she looks down
Suddenly interested in tree-filtered light
On pavement. You go on, I must make
A phone call, walk down these endless stairs,
Buy a postcard, order a drink, pair off as
The whims of the atmosphere demand,
Carry a suitcase through the park
To its less populated places. In fact,
That’s what my silent phone call is about,
That and whether she’s even gotten out
Of bed or whether her shoes are still
Unoccupied. It turns out you can walk
All the way to a beach, where you’d take them off
Again to become the postcard of a bather
If no one saw you undress and change.
Now the suitcase makes sense, but not
That kind, it seems to be a portable
Device for playing music, music to change to
With clouds as inspiration. This is
Working out, there are definite foregrounds
And backgrounds, each composed
Then dissolving or stopping abruptly

Starting up again as though continuous
And yes, she’s still in bed so you’ll have to
Enter the water without her, a splash of white
Where you just were. You, if you are still
The man on shore, help the other
Woman with her impossible suit and now
Your friendliness has a touch of eros to it,
You would wake her much less roughly
On that same part of the back of the shoulder
You targeted unsuccessfully this morning,
But this one’s already awake and away,
You share a single body with the water
And forget. Swimming from becomes
Swimming towards, a flirtation through
The awkwardness of the element, and walking
Down steps requires they be walked back up,
Agreeable fate they greet as though air
Were water and vision. Whose desire
Is this anyway and is it a cloud or the boat
Beneath the cloud, the blanket or the sand
Beneath that or the thermos and bottles, etc.
If he won’t move the other man will and if
He won’t serve them sausages the other
Does till everyone is restored—losing some
Is okay because there’s enough and it’s not
Ever lost—he cleans it off and eats it anyway.
Coughing and laughing, each can cause the other
But laughing may last longer in a moment
While coughing goes on intermittently for days
Like a group of boys in ties who take turns
Striking each other. Who’s next is more painful
Than the blows themselves, the same with goals
In sports or growing up into shame about
Your nakedness. Swimming the distance
From birth you’re now used to experiencing
As water or Sunday, those two girls at a window
Fringed by oak trees. The other method to fall
Asleep on a park bench so that while clothed
You have no sense you are, or your trust in others
A nakedness your clothes wear and for a second
We can lie back upon the grasses partly
Naked, taking liberties we won’t push too far.
We are as asleep as she who never left the bed,
Who sleeps for us all like a perfect actor.
Now the mid-afternoon when storefronts thrive,
Fountains rise a little higher, vision pans
Always to the left across construction sites,
Laundry hung out windows, public statues
(Men or animals) and even an obelisk
Crowds rotate around rather than confront
Their obvious destination. In time
It’s all sand, even the marble, so smile
While holding still whether naked or not,
Knowing or not, fat with discomfort
Or aware it’s a trap even when surprised

To know this. Those in front of a camera
Are missing in a saintly way, statues with lives.
Their smiles carry injury, their sadness a power
To adapt, say thank you to the worst of it,
Make a game of snatching its hat and running off
Throwing it till it lodges in one of the oaks.
This precipitates a whole other serious game
Of cooperation—at least three will be required
To spend time getting back the hat of only one,
An inefficiency permitted on Sunday,
The day groups form and learn from,
Deciding where within the frame to go next.
Before choosing a path touch your mouth
Looking sadly at the available options
Then take none at all except the space
Between young trees. Here you’ll meet him
For a second but keep going, there are better
Places to stop for what will happen, and act
Surprised, even discouraged, when he behaves
Predictably; you do too, and where you touch
Each other proof will bloom, you aren’t trees
Growing out of sand. Head back to the right,
You can’t go left forever; go up even, up and right
Then down to where he’s standing while you
Fake sleep and waking from it. He looks like
He’s getting ready for work, holds a pinecone
Like it’s an ancient tool. Others are similarly
Strewn through the instant’s overexposure,
Sprawled or walking, trudging down embankments
Or headed back to the starting point. It’s a huge park
Filled with time they are going to convene
Drowsily, close the musical briefcase, no, not yet,
First a kind of modular pairing-off known
As where are the others—it feels good to say
Finally, even if no answer is immediately
Forthcoming or has stopped to take something
Out of its shoe. The answer is they are here
One at time. That feels good too, slanted
Light to play a last song on the portable
While the final straggler makes her reluctant
Way across involuntary terrain
Over to the fact of the rest. She almost got lost
And that almost is crucial, with its being time
To return, the blue of the afternoon darker
Or deeper, a fight about to break out. Pleasures
Have to be shared, and the grimness thereof
When they’re about to fade. There are many
Others afterwards; they keep falling through
The speed of any one activity’s end
Into a paddleboat either sex can power

Without shame; it’s even enjoyable to move
From passenger to operator and back,
Thinking or doing, melancholy or magnanimous.
The four have forgotten about those who are not
In their boat but are surrounded all the same
By shoreline with unlimited populations
Maples by the water represent; the men
Start play-hitting her, taking fake turns
As they near the shore, and she is mad and happy,
An oar in their water. It’s time to remember, talk
Across greater distances, cooperate with strangers
Stranded nearby. We’ll go over there and retrieve
For them what they can’t get for themselves
Even if it makes us jealous of each other.
Sad to be connected to somebody by so little
So briefly, a note thrown in the water
Unfolds faster. Pedaling hard now they reach
A mooring that leads to others, to a structure
Of some kind where they will have to part
If not all have the money to go on, no, they can
Lend him the money to ensure they meet again.
And he is there, they’re four and one,
It’s still Sunday, full and orchestral if right
About to wane as well. The four become two
Men and two women thinking of the next
Sunday, and probably lying to each other
About this so their bodies will part for real.
One man breaks his cigarette in two to celebrate,
Gives half to the other man. They ride the tram
Like boys without jobs but even they are parted
By the numbers waiting on their buildings.
Back in the apartment the two bottles there
On the table and she still asleep in the bed
As though no time has passed, she refused it,
Nothing has happened but the empty beer.
It’s morning for her but not in the world
That can trade a night for another day
Simply by lifting an invisible hand.
Full morning already, fog in the park
Transported by the many coming off
That double bridge, determined again
To block out the thought of four million
Doing Monday likewise out of sight.
And the cabs that stop almost as often
As they start, bottles packed in crates
On the beds of passing trucks, the rhythm
Causes trivial forgetfulness, white sky.
She leaves her purchase behind in the shop
But it catches her up at the door.

Replacement Therapy

REPLACEMENT THERAPY (2010)

[Video loop, color, silent]

The Replacement Therapy project was conceived and executed during an artist residency at the Lou Harrison Straw Bale House in Joshua Tree. In the small courtyard that I had turned into my studio I used furniture and other household items to construct and then de-construct a large-scale ephemeral sculpture. As is the case with much of my other work, Replacement Therapy investigates ideas about “home.” The piece was inspired by the hormone-driven and at times comical urge to obsessively sort, group, arrange and especially re-arrange, a phenomenon that can occur during pregnancy, the menstrual cycle (PMS), or peri-menopause. The idea was to exhaust myself by using as many objects as possible, building from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling without having any pre-conceived plan. I would go inside, find an object—a chair for example—carry it to the courtyard, and then find “the right spot” for it. Every time I added an object, I took a photograph. Once the space was filled I reversed the process by picking “the right object,” removing it, and carrying it back to where I’d found it, once again photographing the altered sculpture step by step until the courtyard was empty again.

With the photographs I created a stop-motion video loop in which the process of construction and de-construction is repeated ad nauseam. The viewer experiences the artist’s arbitrary or intuitive choice and placement of each object either as a surprise or, alternatively, as a lack of control; it is a similarly obsessive and draining experience. The need to build is replaced by the (less satisfying) need to watch. What will the next object be? Where will it go? How much longer will this go on? Will it collapse? When? Why am I doing (watching) this? And: when will it (I) be done?

 

necessity, immensity, and crisis (many edges/seeing things)

There’s a more than critical criticism that’s like seeing things—a gift of having been given to love things and how things look and how and what things see. It’s not that you don’t see crisis—cell blocks made out of the general meadow, and all the luxurious destitution and ge(n)ocidal meanness, the theft of beauty and water, the policing of everyday people and their everyday chances. It’s just that all this always seems so small and contingent against the inescapable backdrop of constant escape—which is the other crisis, that is before the first crisis, calling it into being and question. The ones who stay in that running away study and celebrate its violently ludic authenticity, the historicity that sends us into the old-new division and collection of words and sets, passing on and through, as incessant staging and preparation. This necessity and immensity of the alternative surrounds and aerates the contained, contingent fixity of the standard.

The alternative, and the ones who stand (in) for it, can only be defended in what Mario Pedrosá calls its “experimental exercise,” which happens everyday, and in the recognition of its exercise, which is what I think Marx refers to when he speaks, in “Communism and Private Property,” of the everyday engagement in criticism that is an essential part of a communist way of life, and which sometimes he more than critically enacts when he engages in critique, in the elaboration of a general theory of crisis, and in the urgent address of specific instances of crisis. Questions concerning the theory and actuality of crisis are no less urgent now because crisis is always with us. Seeing things doesn’t hide the crisis that critique discloses; rather, it locates it more precisely, within a general tendency for upheaval that it constitutes. Seeing things, the alternative seeing of things, the seen and seeing alternative, which a certain deployment of crisis is meant to police, is the crisis of genuine disclosure and generative disruption.

The crisis of deprivation on a global scale is a function of policing that responds to a global ecologic of generation that regulative power brutally (mis)understands as a crisis of law. This is to say that crisis is not only a function of policing but that it has a policing function; it is also to say that crisis is ongoing, generative resistance to the regulation, the policing, that it generates. This poor description of the interplay of policing and crisis is trying reverently to disclose a reversal that already animates Policing the Crisis, the classic attendance of Stuart Hall, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke and Brian Roberts to the range and force of the generative social and aesthetic upheaval of the alternative in England since World War II. Hall and his fellows analyze the ideological manufacture of crisis as a mode of interpretive regulation. The racialization of already extant criminal activity allows its epidermalized “novelty” to be interpreted as crisis. But the criminalization of that activity, in its relation to the normalization of modes of propriation whose brutality and scale dwarf any and every instance of “mugging,” is the real problem because, in the end, it was never about this or that instance or collection of instances of law breaking; it was, rather, about the social self-defense of jurisgenerative capacity of which mugging can be said to be a particular manifestation, noteworthy not because of its brutality or venality or degeneracy but only because its enactment of self-defense through (re)propriative acts are susceptible to a condition in which they reinforce the brutal axioms of ownership and exception.

Criticism, the capacity to see things in their branching and unfolding and generative differentiation, attends to generation while critique, as Marx deploys it, attends to the regulation and policing of generation and while degenerate critique, which seems to be deployed today almost everywhere in the normal human sciences, is driven by its own implicit claims of national identity or political subjectivity that have themselves been made subject to a force, and been understood by way of a logic, of degeneration implying a mystery of loss and of what was lost. Here’s where the neoliberal lament regarding “the crisis of democracy” (which was, according to Samuel Huntington and his fellows, a function of there being too much democracy) can be understood as the animating trace of certain folks, claiming to be on the left, whose lament of the current loss of “our democracy” is driven by nostalgic fantasies of a democracy that supposedly was held within the structure of, rather than resistance to, American exclusion. It’s not coincidence that this convenient repression of American exclusion is usually accompanied by an assertion of American exception which either takes the form of an invocation of “our” best intentions or, more pragmatically, as the assertion of a right to do just about anything in the name of national defense, whose complete detachment from imperial aggression is sanctioned by the serial invocation of crisis.

When people respond to the suppression of the alternative—and Hall and his fellows brilliantly illuminate how state interpretation of the alternative as crisis is a fundamental element of that suppression—the word riot is deployed in order to augment that suppression; but when suppression of the alternative is more (im)properly understood as a response to the alternative it also becomes possible to understand that with regard to the insistent previousness of the alternative it is more accurate to say, over Sly Stone’s growl or Joe Strummer’s sneer, that there is, and already has been, a riot going on. This is about the anoriginary force of tumultuous derangement, a generative sociopoesis given in and as everyday sensuality. To rise to the defense of this sacred, ordinary, generative violence—to protect it from the ongoing murder—is often to risk a kind of appropriation of the very propriative force one seeks to combat with an otherwise animating fugitivity. Such uprising can take the form of burnin’ and lootin’ but, even more easily, such appropriation can take the form of a critical account of the justificatory causes of burnin’ and lootin’. Meanwhile, what always remains or, more precisely, what must be understood as the irreducible remainder that animates such physical acts as well as such critical accounts, are everyday and everynight things. It’s not about the looting of loot or the assault of persons who take shape as shops and wares, or about the insurgents’ loss of or exclusion from citizenship or belonging that supposedly makes the former inevitable; it is, rather, all about insurgence as the performative declaration of what we are and what we have and what we give. Put another way, the seemingly infinite production of crisis finds its limit in the infinite rehearsal of generative capacity, in the open field of a generative grammar, in the fecundity of a range of generative principles, all of which reveal the sclerotic constraints that are fostered by an empiricist attitude whose structuring force in the determination of Anglo-American intellectual identity can be traced back to a certain valorization of the grasp, and the philosophical nomination of the possessive individual to the office of manager of the enclosure, by way of the bloody fingerprints of a transcendental subject who is unable or unwilling to see things but who can neither let things go nor pass things on.

The riot that’s goin’ on is a party for self-defense. The question concerning its causes, its sources, shouldn’t be left to liberal or neoliberal pundits and prime ministers, even when their more or less racist and ageist elitism leads them to say, with a kind of ignorant and imprecise accuracy, that the causes are cultural. What they don’t mean is that culture is the imprecise word we give to regenerative resources of insurgent social life. There’s another way of living that exhausts imposed arrangements. It’s where and how people fight. When seemingly random and unorganized acts of self-defense erupt against the violence of the state and capital, the only important question is how to maintain their connection to the social field they are meant to defend. This is a question concerning the corrosive, reconstructive force of certain practices that Michael Herzfeld thinks of in terms of “cultural intimacy—the recognition of those aspects of a cultural identity that are considered a source of external embarrassment but that nevertheless provide insiders with their assurance of common sociality, the familiarity with the bases of power that may at one moment assure the disenfranchised a degree of creative irreverence and at the next moment reinforce the effectiveness of intimidation.” But what if we begin to consider, against the grain and over the edge of whatever combination of the critique of authenticity and the appeal to upright, paralytic sovereign recitations of the citizen consumer, that the social poetics Herzfeld is after is an undercommon intellectual project that begins to emerge precisely when the distinction between insiders and outsiders breaks down, when a certain kind of communal claim is made in a certain kind of walking down certain city streets, and when that claim is given in and as an active disruption of the nation-state, in and as a kind of masque in which the very habits of the damned are taken on and, thereby, altered in their free, constant and already given alteration. Meanwhile, we confront the emergence of new black acts—of the kind E. P. Thompson describes in Whigs and Hunters—now outlawing autonomous cybersocial organization for self-defense emerge under the self-regulating cover of the ones who internalize the embarrassment they refuse, the generativity non-citizens claim.

The notion that crisis lies in the ever more brutal interdiction of our capacity to represent or be represented by the normal is as seductive, in its way, as the notion that such interdiction is the necessary response to our incapacity for such representation. Their joint power is held in the fact that whether abnormality is a function of external imposition or of internal malady it can only be understood as pathological. Such power is put in its accidental place, however, by the ones who see, who imaginatively misunderstand, the crisis as our constant disruption of the normal, whose honor is given in and protected by its representations, with the ante-representational generativity that it spurns and craves. This is the crisis that is always with us; this is the crisis that must be policed not just by the lethal physical brutality of the state and capital but also by the equally deadly production of a discourse that serially asserts that the crisis that has befallen us must overwhelm the crisis that we are; that crisis follows rather than prompts our incorporative exclusion.

There’s a connection between poetry and violence that Amiri Baraka, among others, began to explore by way of these terms and which now needs to be re-explored in the full awareness that Baraka’s movement extended, rather than disavowed, that antinomian opening of the field that can be traced back through Charles Olson and Sun Ra, Emily Dickinson and Harriet Jacobs, Anne Hutchinson and Tituba, and beyond. The poetics of the open field, especially when performed in the narrow cell, was always tied to the sociopoetics of riot, of generative differentiation as a kind of self-care, of expropriative disruption as a kind of self-defense, of seeing things as a performed social theory of mind. Baraka took it out, and sometimes tried to take it home, which drove it through him and even further out, in the name of an enformant poetics, spreading the news and the new in the giving and taking of form, as lemons, and people, piled on steps, disarrayed inappropriately against every propriative and counter-propriative intention that claims to have put them there. We still enact, because we desire and cannot live without, the immense poetry of war, by which Wallace Stevens meant and didn’t mean a poetics of social pregnancy, the international, anti-national embarrassment of seeing things and making things. The poetics of the alternative is funereal and venereal, surviving in denotative self-defense and the righteous distortions it enacts in rough advent. There’s a This is England poetics, a Luv ‘n Haight poetics, miving without moving in and against the brutal smallness of imposed needs and nationalized histories with the kind of out lyricism that only comes from being constrained to be somewhere else, that will have already come from the other side to keep on going, that had already come with those of us who are the other things we see.

8.19.11

 

Silent Salute of Poetry

[excerpt] Silent Salute of Poetry [excerpt]

Translated by Koichiro Yamauchi and Steve Redford

March 11th. Shinchi Station. Its bare face was attacked by a tsunami.

Shinchi Station. Like other stations, it has carried lives, connected hearts, spun the time.

April 24th. The view toward Soma City is perfectly clear.  Have we seen such a blue sky since the quake? Since then, no.

Blue sky, have you forgotten all about the quake?

What lies deep in the blue sky?  The bottom of the warm ocean? The Blue brothers. The sky and ocean.

What grave face did the station put on to greet our lives? What gentle look did it give us when it guaranteed our departures and returns? What solemn expression did it have when it saw off the beginning and met the ending of each day? The station’s name was Shinchi Station.

Running like the wind across the springtime countryside and mountain fields. Because the plants, the flowers are sprouting, budding, the thin tips of twigs are inviting the season.  Feeling the breathing of storm, light, and clouds. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is resounding. I’m a speeding conductor.

What’s a silent salute?  What’s a silent salute of poetry? Whizzing over the mountain fields, over the countryside, across the bottom of the blue sky, my mind turns furiously. What’s the meaning of a silent salute? What does it mean for poetry to salute silently? The storm, the light and the clouds. A break in the clouds. A deer’s cry.

What does the bridge try to connect from this shore to that shore?  What does the bridge try to convey from this shore to that shore? What does the bridge try to bring from that shore to this shore? Crossing a bridge, crossing a bridge…

Chasing the light. Chasing the wolf-shaped light. Chasing the wind-shaped light. Chasing the road-shaped light.  Chasing the light shaped like you. The light shaped like the heart is dazzling. Chasing the light shaped like paddies and fields. Chasing the world-shaped light. Embracing (in my arms) the prayer-shaped light.  The spring blue sky.

Nobody’s here, an attendant-less platform. A nobody’s-here, attendant-less platform. Shinchi Station, a nobody’s-here, attendant-less platform.

The railroad track, ignoring the real rail, is bent. Where does it lead? Where does it return? The bent track is seeking an entirely different destination.

On an attendant-less platform, the silhouette of no man. Everyone stares at a destination. Going to Sendai? Iwaki? Everyone stares at a destination. All destinations are entirely different.

The track is winding around the station. Around the station, the track is winding. It’s the first time I’ve seen the track winding around the station.  A first-time spectacle. A white dragon.

A god, embodied in a train, passed by? A devil, embodied in a train, passed by?  The present, feverish moment passed by?  The destination of a lost track, the destination of a lost train, the destination of a lost wind. The wind blows fiercely.

The platform I never got off at.  Standing there now, I realized one thing. Stepping down, the wind in my face, the sound of the waves in my ears, I realized…

A tsunami has come.

A Blue Note record was on the platform at Shinchi Station. How many times was this Jazz record played, spun? How many times did you spin it, play it?

A tilting utility pole is saluting silently.

Did the station quit as a station? The station did quit as a station. The station, too, repents. The station, too, is full of regret. The station, too, has lost itself.

An electric fan has fallen over.  The wind is gone. A silent salute.

Good night.


Seat Assignment

Improvising with materials close at hand, Seat Assignment consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing. At present, over 2500 photographs and video, made on more than 40 different flights, constitute the raw material of my project.

While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and a few months ago I decided to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory’s own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone.

From the outset, I’ve been aware that what motivates Seat Assignment is the challenge of trying to make under circumstances that seemingly lack any richness or potential. Much of my work stems from the mundane and the everyday, and from my optimism that there is always more of interest around us than we think. What can I make under such constraints? Is there really always more than meets the eye? What kind of immensity can be born of necessity, within this framework? But the longer I work on Seat Assignment, the more I realize it’s also a response to the pairing of anxiety and wonderment that underpin the very experience of flying: one part of the mind swept away in the time travel fantasy of the situation (I can become 15th-century Flemish in a 21st-century lavatory as I teleport from coast to coast!), the other part thinking, as I take my seat, “These could be the 200 people that I’m going to die together with.” In that sense, this project is also born of necessity: making is a necessary response that keeps at bay too many thoughts of the immensity of what is beyond the plane, beyond the seat I sit in, and beyond myself.

 

Angel [excerpt]

[fromFrom A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, Volume Five

 

___________________ 6.X1.83

Dear Angel of Dust,

Once again it will have come to nothing.  Again we will have sat exchanging thoughts on what was to be.  Again we will have heard music, albeit not music so much as music’s trace, music’s rumor, pianistic breakdown as an archetypal he and she gazed out drapeless windows.  What stayed with us will have been a wincing, distraught right hand backed by a grumbling left on an abject keyboard, a right undone or done in as much as backed by a disconsolate left.  We will have stood and stretched as gray, wintry, late afternoon light filled each window, a wounded look on what lay outside and on our faces as we looked out upon it.  An archetypal he and she alone but for the music, aloof to each other even but each the music’s intended, we will have so seen ourselves but no sooner done so than drawn back.  Something found in a wrinkle, something found in a fold, it will have been this that set our course and put us on it, collapse and come to nothing though it would.

So I thought, at least, earlier today at Djamilaa’s.  What will evanescent splendor have come to I wondered as she stood at a window and at one point leaned against the window frame, her left arm raised, her left hand touching the curtain rod.  She stood that way only a moment but the way she stood highlighted her long beauty, lank beauty, her long arms and legs a miracle of limbs.  For an instant something jumped out at me and at the same time jumped inside me, a mood or a mix of elation compounded with dread.  I saw what so much rays out from and relies upon, however much it shook me with apprehension: lank intangible grace, nonchalant allure, love’s modest body.  It was the news of the moment but yesterday’s news as well, something aspect and prepossession seemed intent on saying.  What that something was, as Penguin would say, more than met the eye, but it did nonetheless meet the eye.  My heart leapt and my stomach dropped.

“Leave it alone,” Djamilaa said, demure as to what was at issue but sensing my mood.

“I wish I could,” I said.

The right hand on the keyboard prompted me perhaps, apprehension of any kind its mandate, apprehension of any kind’s fraught base.  Thought’s ricochet played a role as well.  Momentary angst was its immediate heir, an ungainliness of thought in whose wincing retreat one felt elation well up and right away subside.  Fear of being caught out, knowing no way not to be caught out, factored in as well.

“Things are that way sometimes,” Djamilaa said, laconic, blasé, unperturbed.

“I know,” I said.  “Things are always that way.”

It had to do with angles.  The piano’s legs buckled for an instant and rebounded, then they buckled and rebounded again.  The right side of the keyboard crumpled.  The hand that played it crumpled as well.  Had they been glass they’d have shattered, besetting one’s ears, by turns bodily and cerebral, with sharp, intersecting planes rolling Duchamps’ descending nude and Picasso’s weeper into one.  But they were not glass, however much the keyboard’s keening ping made it seem so.

Dressed in a light cotton shift whose hem touched her ankles, Djamilaa stood caught between bouts and volleys of agitation and arrest, her lank beauty all the more lank finding itself so caught but unavailable all the same, it struck me, not to be lastingly caught.  A lack of lasting hold or lasting capture pertained to the music plaguing our heads, mine maybe more than hers but hers as well, a music it seemed we each heard with a distinct incorporeal ear or perhaps together with a shared incorporeal ear.

Djamilaa again offered generic solace, oblique as to what was at issue still, so compellingly we both felt it.  “Not always,” she said.  “But their effect when they are is to make it seem that way.”

“Yes, I guess so,” I said.

The music itself seemed an oblique telepathic dispatch, however much it appeared woven into textile and skin tone, the music of Djamilaa’s bare arms and bare neck emerging from her cotton shift.  It obtained in her skin’s lack of lasting hold and in the wrinkles and folds of her shift.  Had she said, “Fret not thyself,” I’d have said, “Amen,” but we were beyond that now, the music insinuating itself, issueless issue, the nothing it let it be known it will have come to, the nothing that had never been.  It wanted to keep convergence at bay.

It plied an odd, contrarian wish but it was moving and emotive all the same, anti-intimate while inviting intimacy, anti-contact while acknowledging touch.  It plied an aloof tactility, love’s lank tangency, verging on emotional breakdown but brusque, pullaway catch or caress.

It was an actual music we heard and let have its way with us, Paul Bley’s “Touching” on the Mr. Joy album.  No way could we say title told all.

 

As ever,

N.

 

___________________ 14.X1.83

 

Dear Angel of Dust,

Yes, that one has “Nothing Ever Was, Anyway” on it, as do several others.  It does appear, as you say, we let “Nothing Ever Was, Anyway” infiltrate “Touching,” title not telling all notwithstanding, title not telling all all the more.  But there’s an asceticism to Bley’s playing that comes across no matter what the title.  Djamilaa’s been thinking about that, wondering about that, drawn to it a lot of late.  It’s not that less is more, she likes to say, nor that nothing is all, nor that nothing, as Ra says, is.  All those ways of putting it only let sensation in thru the backdoor, she likes to say.  No, it’s not about that.  It’s not as recuperative as that, not as categorical.  It’s an angled attrition, banked extenuation, she likes to say.

It’s as if, when she speaks this way, she’d come to me in a dream and vice versa, each of us the other’s wished-for rescue, each the other’s wariness as well.  It’s not unlike what sometimes happens when we play.  One becomes the extenuation of oneself and the emanation of something else, someone else, ghost and guest arrivant rolled into one.  What is it or who is it steps in at such moments?  It could be anything, anyone, one senses, but the hollow one’s evacuation puts in one’s place appears to afford strangeness a friendly disguise.  One’s fellow band members pass thru that hollow, step into it, relieving the brunt of an attenuation one might otherwise be unable to bear.  It’s something like what Roy Haynes must have meant by saying that playing with Trane was “like a beautiful nightmare.”

Come to as in a dream, yes, a dream dreamt on a rickety bed, springs creaking, home like as not an illusion of home.  To speak was to bank one’s breath within angular precincts, wall intersecting wall’s proprioceptive recess one’s being there had become.  Stereotactic as well, one touched upon aspect, facet, crater, protuberance, grade finessing grade, tangency’s wont.

As ever,

N.

 

Sun and Necessity

Sun, o sun, roaring day and night, is it you who sucks the wind into the trees at dawn as you rise, etc.? The sun is moving time, burning in the sky. With its gravitational pull it drags the past into its flames. But there’s a countervailing force by which the light escapes. The past is cast into the present, which draws it in and then has to figure out what to do with it. Innumerable futures, all uncontained, each capable of reconfiguring the world, none fully imaginable, remain possible. The plum blossoms are out. I’m waiting for a sound, and it comes, almost immediately: a whistle, four notes of some melody. It’s audible through a moment of relative silence between the cranking and crashing of the garbage collectors at work, whistled by one of them. To exist at a micro level, drawing and drawn to the bark of the plum tree and its shadow, thrown by the early morning light, and to metamorphic rocks and anti colonies and salt and a thistle and shingles and complex social life of an urban neighborhood, and to do so freely, uncategorized as a human: this might be a description of an incipient condition—beginning (by synthesizing)—or of a late one. There’s a vague, perhaps tragic, undertow, but its effects are less alarming than amusing—discomfiture, or embarrassment, or the pleasure of a successful joke. “‘What regiment is your son with?’ a lady was asked. She replied: ‘With the 42nd Murderers’ [‘Mörder’—instead of ‘Mörser,’ ‘Mortars’].”1 Freud’s Psychopathology of Everyday Life is a book about bumbling, an unfolding comedy of errors—or a tragicomedy, perhaps: in its anecdotes, confessions, and analyses we can discern bits of a fragmented tragedy, awkwardly encountered by the book’s diverse personnae, or just barely avoided, with further experience of it merely deferred. “I entered a house and offered my right hand to my hostess. In a most curious way I contrived in doing so to undo the bow that held her loose morning-gown together.”2 Standards of respectability are irrelevant to the creative process. Leo X. Lee leans against the right fender of the old Toyota and absent-mindedly begins scratching a face into the worn burgundy paint with the car key. It follows the contours of a pock mark in the fender and the faded color around it. Russell Wright has the hood up and is trying to angle a wrench into place behind the radiator. Leo pockets the key. “You resent having to fix cars when you ought to be practicing?” “Machines. Music. You got to have different centers of gravity.” Russell Wright gives a laugh. “Guess that’s my woman problem, though.” “What’s going on with Rosa-Jane?” “I try to see her regularly. I feel sort of responsible.” Russell Wright likes to play around with words, he likes suffixes. “Profligate, prolific, productive, professional—might be a lot of connections,” he says. “Pro-vincial—that’s what we’re gonna be if we can’t get gigs outside of Oakland,” says Leo. Russell Wright closes the hood and steps back. “Okay then.” Leo drops Russell off at 49th Street and drives downtown to the Oakland MAP. The sun burns to excess. It is not simply causative, it produces (as Elizabeth Grosz says of chance) a “superfluity…of causes, the profusion of causes, which no longer produces singular or even complex effects but generates events, which have a temporal continuity quite separate from that of their ‘causes.’”3 Along with forces of causation come forces of attraction. They pull and complicate. Love and hate, which seem so often products of chance rather than intention, are really only false simplifiers (even as it is false to simplify them). The sun draws life out. It’s the first day of March. The plum trees are in bloom along the edge of the parking lot. The sun is an attractor, as is the shade. Chance adds to the world’s array of attractors, novelty rearranges the social centers of gravity. The dialectical turbulence and flow in which intentionality and the unpredictable, plans of action and the inadvertent and contingent and unprecedented, displace one another are what keep the future open. Statewide protest rallies are planned for March 4: “March Forth on March Fourth” say the posters and flyers that students and union workers have been distributing. Just as quickly as they are pasted or pinned or taped or stapled to telephone poles and walls and bulletin boards and fences on the university campus, the campus police tear them down. Meanwhile, casual acts of passive resistance make use of anti-gravitational forces to make their case and effect their goal. “Not to notice the accoutrements of […] power, not even to glance at the royal robes, not to bother to look at the king—to glance away from these matters of state—is to begin to undo their hold….”4 “I get that,” Flip says. “But the Oakland MAP going to be marching forth, that be right.” “Okay then.” Leo X. Lee plays an A. “Let’s have discord,” he says. Leo X. Lee is nervous. “As usual,” says QJ. Leo plays the A again. “Flip—A flat.” “Where?” “G string.” Flip looks at the guitar neck and then plucks the note. “Okay—Matthew, B flat and Carlotta, you play a B. Flip, another A flat and sustain it this time. On 4.” Leo waves jabs his right forefinger into the air and on the fourth beat the chord resounds. “Shit,” says QJ. “Okay. Now stick to that one tone, but move it around—play the pitch wherever you can find it on your instrument. Make it rock. And after a minute or so, QJ, you come in—high hat only.” “That chord is fuckin’ meta,” says Diego as he walks out of the room. The goal-oriented impulse in humans is destined never to be fulfilled. Or, rather, it is already fulfilled, but humans tend not to know this. As Nietzsche says, “[I]n the end there is no goal; we are always already at it. The fulfilled moment does not lie in the future, but is always there already…. Life does not follow the principle of linear accumulation and progressive enhancement, but instead revolves in a cycle of expiring and expanding. … For this reason, life is always already at its goal or remains equally remote from it, which ultimately amounts to one and the same thing.”5 Yes, but one has to make this into more than vulgar fatalism’s account of the human condition or stoicism’s call to resignation. A pedestrian—a girl in a gray hoodie and short skirt—appears just one event (say a skateboarding boy leaps over a log, robs a bird’s nest of an egg while still afloat over his board, hits the board again on his right foot, and kicks a cop in the balls with his left) prior to her turning into the narrow allow that leads from the parking lot to College Avenue. Everyday life isn’t a gap in the real, it’s not a dead zone in the arena of power. Familiar narratives go largely unnoticed, something that people inhabit for varying lengths of time or that they pass through like circus clowns chasing each other into the tent, under the trapeze, and around the rings until they come on the lions and bolt. The pull of something carnivalesque converges with the pull of commerce. In the process a glitch has arisen in the operating system along the western side of sidewalk. A crowd blocks the way. The amblers, the lunch-hour hospital technicians turning into Café Roma, the neighborhood residents picking up cleaning from C & C, the people hurrying somewhere north or south with their eyes to the ground, the panhandlers (selling copies of the Quaker tabloid Street Spirit for $1 each or selling nothing but their own pathos), all more or less unconsciously aware of each other, all maintaining a modicum of safety and civility so that they can move along and not stumble or collide. But in front of Ici, whose interior is badly laid out and too small for the number of clients its expensive, “hand-crafted” ice cream attracts, a crowd collects, forming a line that clogs the narrow sidewalk. Pedestrians are forced to step into the traffic-congested street, ducking around parked cars, and avoiding passing ones—a white PT Cruiser, a blue Honda civic, several gray cars, a burgundy Prius, a red sports car—and a pick up truck, a brown UPS truck, an alternatingly sighing and grumbling city bus sounding as disgruntled as I (selfishly, or, worse, self-righteously) feel having to make my way through or around the crowd of people waiting for ice cream and completely indifferent to pedestrians’ attempts to get by. Everyday life swirls around absorptive narratives of no great interest whose importance and meaning and even genius are to be found in their for the most part trivial details. Saint Augustine regarded time as a theological perplexity; Shakespeare (and of course myriad other poets, humanists, and artists) considered it a problem for beauty and for the individual in relation to the pull of his or her ultimate mortality.

the Side Effect

When he got home later that night he poured himself another drink, sat down at his kitchen table, and began to do what he called working on his writing. What he wanted to write was a description of the project that he had done in the small room. How each day he had held the pose of a person who was torturing someone or who was being tortured by someone. His source for each pose had been a series of photographs that had been found on the internet, photographs taken in a military prison called “The Hard Site.” As he reenacted the poses he had not distinguished between who tortured and who was tortured. He had let both shape his body. What he had wanted to write was about his decision to do this project, to put his body into the position of particular others, that indexical other without whom no one can be. About his attempt to think of his life as part of a series of complex, passionate, antagonistic, and necessary set of relations to others who act and are acted upon. He was attempting to think about how his passivity contributed to all this, even when doing nothing might have seemed the opposite of contributing. And also about his reservations around this project, this different kind of contribution, about its ineffectiveness. About the limits of art done in isolation. About the limits of art.

But as he typed he became more and more aware of how every time he leaked a sentence out of his body it contained not just his thoughts and ideas and attempts at documentation and description, but also the residue of failure, of a mortifying and paralyzing shame. He was trying to describe something that might be artful, might have something to say about the political moment, but yet could live safely in a room loaned out to him by an arts organization dedicated to the parsing our of aesthetic experiences for a nominal cover charge, but it kept going wrong. It was as if he was no longer free to imagine anything in which he did not also imagine the torture done without his consent but in his name and with his passive support.

Still, he soldiered on though the night, doing what he thought was working on his writing, swirling the ice cubes in his drink, swabbing his leaking blisters with pieces of toilet paper, going to the bathroom to shit or get more toilet paper or insert a homeopathic suppository. He listened as in the distance the day’s first train rumbled along the raised subway line two blocks over. He heard a whistle blow. He raised himself up from the table, evenly balanced on his legs, torso bent at the waist, so that his hands rested on his knees, his head bent at the neck and lifted, feeling a tingling in his face. He could hear the noise his body was making, standing bent over perfectly still, not moving, not even as the room became light.

But the noise his body was making was also not only his body. At first he thought he was hearing things. But then he heard from the basement the whizzing burr of hard-drive fans and diesel engines running at high volume, intermixed with the occasional crisp jangling of metal keys and it was too loud and too rhythmic to ignore. He lurched to the couch and one by one dragged each cushion and pillow and blanket and dog bed and throw rug and soft sculpture and tossed them down the stairs and into the basement. Then he stage-dived down the stairs, landing in the midst of a giant ruckus.

There was a nervous click-clicking noise that jittered in and out of a thick soup of hissing and booming, bomb-runs of pounding, deep-earth bass, punctuated by what sounded like clapping or the slapping of skin. There were angry and ecstatic guitar solos, trap drums playing taps, brass trumpets playing reveille. Musicians kept appearing and joining in, some blowing their horns from a great distance, others using joysticks or satellite communication systems to control their computers and samplers and sound processors and circuit-bent video game consoles. DJs spun and scratched the dented hubcaps of half-exploded armed personnel carriers, the hillbilly armor attached to sprawling networks of scrapped wiring and repurposed military hardware, the improvised exclamatory devices screeching into the general din and frenzy.

In the wings, to the extent that there could be said to be wings to a basement, there suddenly were what seemed like tens of thousands of extras. Everyone had a costume, or rather were themselves, wearing what they wear, with combat boots, dog tags, cargo pants, tight or loose-fitting dresses, tasteful work shoes, hipster jackets, and all the variations that could be imagined among such a throng. They began running in from the sides in circles, at the same time thrusting their hips and making airborne chest-to-chest collisions and air-stroking their cocks. They would at moments form a chorus line that snaked through the basement and with interlocked arms they kicked to the music, stopping now and then to give each other high-fives and thumbs-ups and to simulate a series of heretofore classified but since wikileaked enhanced interrogation techniques. There was slapping, singing, sweating, smiling. Kicking, whooping, twisting, posing. All with or without consent, with or without blushing, timed to the insistent beat of the band.

At first, he just sat there befuddled. He did not ask if what was happening was real or if it was the product of parasites and alcohol and sodium channel inhibitors and adrenal glands of animals and gin and downloaded photographs and depressing statistics all mixing up in his stomach and then into his brain. He just sat there, trying to relax and breathe into the soft site he’d made with the pillows and the cushions. But soon it was as if the woven and laminated fibers in his shoulders and back would not let him merely sit and watch, but instead thrust him up and out of his pose and into the dancing fray, as if this might become some kind of remedy for all the leaking, the tightening, the freezing of muscles and mind.

So his body leaped up and joined in an elaborate line dance where they thrust their elbows out and spun their fists around in front of their breastplates, then thrust their thumbs back over their shoulders with a forward and back motion, each in their own disjointed time and imprecision. Some were now lurching around in combat-booted counterpoint to the music, as if experimenting with the different way the shoulders and the ass jut in or out when the hands are cuffed in front or in back, the legs trailing behind. First their shoulders caved forward and then their shoulders pulled back, their chest caved in between each spasm of the shoulder as they moved, again and again. Others ran in place, like cartoon characters, interrupting this every few seconds by making sudden contractions of the psoas, reaching down to slap the floor with their hands, then bouncing back up into running across the stage, all the while singing in a low monotone:

Where’dya put the body
Where’dya put the body body
Where’dya put the put the body body baby
Where’dya put the body body
Where’dya where’dya put the body
Where’dya where’dya put the put the put the body baby

Except it wasn’t a stage, but a basement. Except it wasn’t a basement, but a rehearsal space lent to him by the small nonprofit arts organization. Not a rehearsal space, but an interrogation room. Not an interrogation room, but a soundstage for filmed re-enactments. Not a soundstage but a fake Baghdadi neighborhood staged for counter-insurgency training exercises. Not a fake neighborhood but an intersection in the Financial District on the night of March 23, 2003. Not an intersection but the holding cell funded by the Department of Homeland Security for counter-terrorist efforts, holding 2,438 protestors in a nearby warehouse rented for this very purpose. Not a warehouse-turned-holding cell but a warehouse-turned-club where the after-party takes place. Not an after-party but an opening at a well-funded art museum. Not an opening but a fundraiser for the small nonprofit arts organization. Not a fundraiser but an academic conference on politics and aesthetics. Not a conference but a boardroom meeting on tax-deductible philanthropic donations to nonprofit arts organizations. Not a boardroom but a bedroom, after an argument between lovers. Not a bedroom but a bunker, dug into the cold, cold ground. Not a bunker but a book, each line redacted except for the numbers. Not a book, but the fire made from its burning pages.

Except the fire was painted on an enormous screen, propped across the back horizon, so that the set gave off an ambience that is part desert war-scape and part reality TV game show, with all kinds of online ballot measures available for viewer participation for those who could face the prospect of clicking the icon to vote combatants off the show. There were blips of heat on the screen that could be double-clicked, sending flares up into the night sky so that the audience could better see the action, except there’s no audience, since all this is happening now and everyone’s knee-deep in it, not just watching but embedded participants. Even tapping his feet to the catchy rhythms was participation. Even rolling his eyes to the absurdity of it all was participation. Even pressing a piece of toilet paper against his cheek to collect the fluid leaking from his face was participation, since now the giant toilet paper roll, filled with all the fluid and all that shits out of all of us, was unrolling, unfurling, and scrolling across the bottom of the screen, a real-time news ticker for all who will have tuned in to follow the lyrics and sing along with the bouncing bomb:

Didya put the body in the bag
Didya put the body in the bag bag
Didya put the body in the body bag baby
Didya put the body in the body bag bag didya
Didya put the put the body body in the bag bag
Didya put the body in the bag baby didya didya

The musicians were now making sounds like Dopplerized armored vehicles speeding by a riot at a heavy metal concert, with yelling and chants and whistling and catcalls, in what seemed like a hundredfold languages, a riotous wash of voices shouting in protest or singing on an assembly line or marching, running, breaking glass, as there then commenced lifting and unfolding and crease-fingering, the sniffing of pits and pockets, checking for ticks and leakages, floor-rashes and knee-bruising, swabbing with toilet paper and rubbing with ice, wiping clean and hiding the hurt, before gearing up again to climb the twelve foot high and three foot thick reinforced concrete Bremer walls that surrounded the basement, smiling for the closed-circuit security cameras scanning the theater of operations in order to document and file all that’s done in our name, and then dancing and swinging their arms, some vertically and some horizontally, as if signaling to an invisible fleet of stealth helicopters where to land.

It was a big production, with a budget of $1,229,735,801,934.00. Weekend reservists repelled from the copters hovering above as others made the raise the roof position to receive and pass along any number of bodies leaping and falling from above, in what the contract calls the performance of several air transportations, as their diamond dog tags glistened in the pulsing strobe lights, which were meant to induce sleep-deprivation, bewilderment, and increased motivations for compliance. And so they bent and leaned and leapt and fell into the rifle-hot flesh of the pillowed and cushioned and moldy drywalled mosh pit, lifting others onto the back and swaying with them, giving over weight and impulse upon impact, all with or without groans or eye-rolling.

Meanwhile, he had piled the saw horses into a pyramid and then climbed up into the rope support network and squatted down, balancing on the front of his feet, his head forward and down, spine straight and aligned, right arm pulled back, and from this position could see more and more people arriving and using their assault rifles or night-scope sniper rifles or prosthetic arms and legs or their helmets or combat boots and frantically breaking up the concrete basement floor and digging into the ground, singing, we’re gonna find the poison, we’re gonna find the poison, while others lined up, each pushing a mop, the right hand on top of the left, both hands on the handle, arms bent at a 90 degree angle, scrubbing vigorously back and forth, shoulders hunched, bent at the waist just enough to put pressure on the mop heads to clean up the evidence leaking from his face, singing:

Sop it up, mop it up, soak it in your cloth
Never burn your mouth on another man’s broth

Mop it up, sop it up, classify, redact
Swab it up, zip it up, keep it all ice-packed

Then, finally, if there can be said to be a finality to any of this, there were approximately 919,967 performers lined up in a seemingly endless chorus line facing inward at mad angles, instruments and weapons and tools dropped to the ground, arms linked or amputated stumps pressed up against one another, all singing in a spooky half-whisper, half-hum, we’re gonna find the poison, we’re gonna find the poison. Sweat dripped down their backs and faces and they cast their gaze around the gathered thousands, breathing and looking, breathing and looking.

Pausing, breathing, sweating, looking. The helicopter sounds fading into the sounds of the world outside, if there can be said to be an outside, sounds of cars, trucks, convoys, people, chatter.

And as the music began to swell again, as if into a final number to end all final numbers, they all walked two steps forward and then one back, then two steps forward and one back again. Two forward, pause, one back, two forward, pause, one back.

They stutter-stepped and swayed towards and away from one another, moving forward and then rocking back, stopping and starting, aligned and misaligned in their breathing and their movements, singing softly:

Two steps forward, one step back
Pulled by desire and by fear held back
Two steps forward, one step back
Pulled by connection, by ambivalence back

Two steps forward, one back, pushed by righteous anger and pushed back by the fear of failure.

Two steps forward, one back, compelled by need and held back by the fear of commitment. Two steps forward, one back, attracted to the pack and repulsed by its unpredictable sloppiness.

Pausing, breathing, hands into fists. Rocking, breathing, swaying, looking. Silent laughing or teeth grinding or glowing inner radiance or the biting of the inside of the lower lip.

Two steps forward, one back.

He could hear his heart beating. He could hear everyone’s heart.

Two steps forward, feeling the struggle-force well up within, then one step back to get ready.

We are always getting ready. But we keep moving slowly in this manner, even if it takes us the entire night to get wherever we’re going, or a day and a night, or a week or month or year or lifetime.

He’s walking forward, two steps towards the center, one back, and you are walking forward, swaying forward and back in the same manner, rocking back and then forward again, and all the thousands of singers, dancers, performers, musicians, artists, soldiers, and walking dead, arms locked and high kicking to the boom-boom bap, tap-tap-tap, two steps forward, one step back.

We’re all moving, getting ready but moving all the same, towards the messy entanglement that awaits us when we are ready to finally dive in.

S T O R M

STORM CENTURY TURNING IN A CITY

The snow having just fallen he thought of how easily we move into these cities, some other century, and call it the same moral string: the poverty, the gaslight, the showcase, the admonitions, the sleep.  Sitting on the purple-hearted chairs and tables one looks out on the snow shelving bicycles and televisions.  Sees another person quietly fall.  The polish family upstairs is running a daycare in their two-bedroom apartment and there are children who have no respect for the sky.  She thought of herself as the black draw of a new moon and he said these entitlements are strangling growth.  She thought of herself as a child stenographer but grew frustrated with the men who thought it a sign of vitality to never speak still.  If I can stand why can’t these prisoners.   If I can walk why can’t these cripples face up to the miracle.  He says I am tired of these new-to-the-city stories because they disguise something much more severe, self-destructive, rifling the background of laughter.  She liked the sound of rebel but felt it lost force and sentience in the jungle where it had hidden out for years.  The plumber may come tomorrow.  She takes to putting on private plays and to going to the theater.  Something changes in him and she tries to point to it by reading shorter stories out loud in the living room where they sleep.  It takes him two days to get across the room to where she was standing and by then only a pale honesty remained without the wrought, beautiful grain of judgment.  Fed on debt and the dead time they have created, we are left to be exceptions.  As a clerk, his lateness is constant but varies each day and he prefers not to speak, for himself.  Fallen in the promised snow he is just not the man he wanted his blood to speak.  Shake your last-time look, young man or you will be another century’s socket.  See me now so I can trust you with this money.

 

STORM COMING TO MEET YOU

Unbearable is every start towards you.  The things I would have said.  Sand with a dull knife carve, pounding shores and the millions of lips raised in the retreat.  The things I would have said live on and we must feed them with unfocused eyes, lights bleeding.  Cerro Rico is a hollow mountain that is hollow because its veins are dry once glittering with moon harvest and the mercury trembling within their limbs when they returned home to the unborn.  A good strong back is good enough for a few years in the mines and then they wonder off into the rubber trees, filled their stomachs with dirt.  I have found myself into someone else’s pain once again: sugar canes, salt planes, and asthmatic dressings of gauze.  Losing skin the lepers hurt like air leaving.  You were a doctor but couldn’t heal the bottlenecked atriums in your lungs.  Your name translates roughly into hey, listen, man.  Put your face on the walls of our libraries.  Barthes said to be a lover is to desire affirmation.  When I got out of work and came to meet you were already a woman underground.  What do I know about your own private contortions and these sturdy northern legs built out of the silver they hauled in blessed hulls to the no-land.  Hidden under guns I can tell you there were the ghost seeds of orchids.  Wild oats.  Our veins glow through the long sleep of our skin.

 

STORM AS MEDICAL EXPERIMENT

It has recently been acknowledged by the US state department that sanctioned experiments were carried out between prostitutes and inmates which involved syphilis and penicillin and the risky and unethical behavior of what might turn out where pangea was stretched and blown like a glass tulip stem in cloud fire.  Have I made this more beautiful, she said to the qui’che prisoner, who was only too happy to be close to a woman in the dark.  Who was only too happy to see his wife the next day among the mestizo guards and explain how well this new treatment was working.  When we work the distance we make it into art.  When we keep the distance we call it health.  The afternoon rains wrestled with the raccoons in the roofs, bent metal into standing voices.  The guards go on strike because they are asked to live like prisoners in the breed pools.  Unfortunate, really, how beautiful this splitting jungle has become.  She left while the children were sleeping.  The dirt floor is a palm.  Pressure front are these tremors of a host, waves building off shore.  When he came back, he brought me pansies, which he said were once known as love-in-idleness.

 

STORM OF SPRING AT INDIAN ROCK

I am paying myself out in storms.  Cool air come into the open kitchen where our feet were bare and overlapping.  But why do I spend so much time thinking of your return, as a full voice on the phone, or, even more, as a nightfallen heart beating within the cautious range of my hand.  You cultivate what you hide and then hide yourself.  How would you know that I am just a fragile line in the real?  I wonder if spring is love for you in this twisted garden of air or is it just gold pollen on lips.  We made it this far but the rush is nowhere going.  So I try to stay taut, to keep bending my line into war, as if strength were enough to match the blood in the world.  And when we are alone, do we take this time to find some middle way between the betrayals of democracy, magic, and revolutionary vanguard?  What now can I use to reinvent myself and why do I keep writing about the same bare scraps lying about when young mothers cover their faces with rubble, fear the long clutch of adoption.  Tell the children the truth.  Maybe these heartwilds have all been solipsistic, apostrophes for waiting out a bitter, contestable love.  Dream with me.  The mind must declare itself.  Forget your commissions, reconciliation is truth as it burns into the long blind pauses of an interview: unending and unappropriable.  The pursuit of it begins us again in the nights where no one can find us calling out our difference from the day.  You tell me what comedy of years, a traveling circus or spaghetti meal on highwire.  The fool is hurt life on a stem, a bright vagabond against the snowy mountains.  By the time we make it to the square the undercover men hurling rocks from horses disappear into the crowd.  A voice holds open the ground.

 

STORM WHAT LILY SAYS

What grows in these parts of you.  So much time you spend writing your poetry, runs in the hills.  On a post: learn how to protect your home from wild embers.  Boxing, he says, is a misunderstanding of the world’s antagonisms.  Poverty sharing blows with poverty.  O, dear.  I don’t care for boxing and try to interrupt your pronouncements with little words.  How can the ocean look so hard at a distance.  I want to spend my life.  Faraway, but contiguous.  There is this fear of taking on your persuasions, sympathies I cannot bear.  I watch as you look down at the canyon wall full of manzanitas, lichen, and dried thistles and give in to an eroding tumble and crawl, crashing through someone’s property.  I will not follow.  You fall into a flock of hooks.  How will you get out.  Later, in the shower, you will rinse off the blood, reliving the brambles hanging thin hot lines.  A barbarousness.  Your legs will sing uncovered while we boil water and try to sort out the train horns from the barges in the bay, talking Etta’s love that has come along.  At last.  The night where I looked into you.

 

STORM ARE YOU THE MOMENTUM

I ask because I feel more vulnerable than ever to history these days.  Everyone says I am doing the best I can.  Every morning it is a sick frenzy reading articles in bastard news, rifling for small details of struggle amidst the cruel entertainment.  Mr. Mayor, what do you know about violence?  Shock treatment.  Infertilization.  One in four on the bathroom stall, a rape.  Close the doors, raise money to keep the talent.  Shut it down.  My body is the best comment on the world.  People say go where the momentum is.  You don’t have to wait until you die.  I used to envy a close friend who moved to Italy because she hated the falseness and cruelty of America, fell in love with a shipbuilder, and lived off the romance for a couple years.  The fatigue set in and he convinced her other people should be involved.  She stayed home when he left for weeks and began losing her hair.  I told her there is no other country.  I asked her if she still knew of winter music, the kind made by hot air forcing itself through pipes and organs.  And now, these drums in public parks.  Miniature cities with hospitals, libraries of moonlight.  Enough to feed them.