I can't believe that poem made it into the Wall Street Journal. It was another world, a recognition scene, if only for a moment.I don't believe in anything, I do
Believe in you.
Down here in hell we do don't.
I can't think of anything I won't.
I amputate your feet and I walk.
I excise your tongue and I talk.
You make me fly through the black sky.
I will kill you until I die.
Thank God for you, God.
My God, it is almost always Christmas Eve this time of year, too.
Then I began to pray.
I don't believe in anything anyway.
I did what I do. I do believe in you.
Down here in hell they do don't.
I can't think of anything we won't.
How beautiful thy feet with shoes.
Struggling barefoot over dunes of snow forever, more falling, forever, Jews
Imagine mounds of breasts stretching to the horizon.
We send them to their breast, mouthful of orison.
I like the color of the smell. I like the odor of spoiled meat.
I like how gangrene transubstantiates warm firm flesh into rotten sleet.
When the blue blackens and they amputate, I fly.
I am flying a Concorde of modern passengers to gangrene in the sky.
I am flying to Area Code 212
To stab a Concorde into you,
To plunge a sword into the gangrene.
This is a poem about a sword of kerosene.
This is my 21st century in hell.
I stab the sword into the smell.
I am the sword of sunrise flying into Area Code 212
To flense the people in the buildings, and the buildings, into dew.
So I am thinking like the editors darkly and brightly on a bright sunny afternoon, having returned from area code 212 which seemed at once the longed-for mosaic of difference and a consumerist carnival stuffed with caricatures, everyone skating on an invisible river of money, talking about real estate in the shops and on the subways and in actual garden apartments. Me and Emily registering to be householders, but what sort of house...? Had a panic attack in Bloomingdales that turned into a migraine; ABC Carpet was better (saw Michael Cross of Atticus/Finch there) but what do its many flatscreens promoting the Al Gore movie mean as one bauble among many in the phantasmagoria of beautiful deracinated objects? (The woman in charge of partnership registries there told us in all seriousness that the store does a lot of benefitsfor example, it hosted a party for Vanity Fair's "green issue.") We are weaving and winding our way toward the wedding through a maze of material expectations. And don't we want it to be beautiful? We do we do. But what exactly is "China"? And why do we need it?
It is almost six, not too late to go whack a bucket of balls sunsetward. And who do we become but who we are? Is there any future for the lyric? Is there such a thing as a lyric future? Our garden is the space between us: let it become charged with some sort of language, with what's proper in Mark Greif's sense. His contribution to the "Politics" section of n + 1 includes a proposal for the redistribution of wealth that would guarantee a $10,000 income to every American while taxing 100% of the earnings exceeding $100,000 of any American. It's impossible and impossibly beautiful, because it's upheld with a notion of the proper. What I call pastoral:
True property is that which is proper to you: what you mix your hands into (Locke), what is characteristic of you and no one else, and would change state in anyone else's possession. It is your clothes, your domicile, the things you touch and use, the land you personally walk. Property is the proprium, a possesion which becomes like a characteristic; it starts as if it could belong to anyone, and comes to be what differentiates you. If it wears the mark of your feet and the smudge of your fingertips, your scent and your private atmosphere, then there is indeed something special and inviolable about property, even where it has come into your hands inequitably, by inheritance or a surfeit of income. The diamond worn at the throat every evening must share a certain protection, under the law, with the torn cloak that keeps some shivering person warm.Because I am a poet, and because I think change always begins with the selfor rather, the field in which one mixes one's handsI will be thinking about this as a morality, as a political economy that might apply to the social field of writing and to writing itself. The proprium may be a new way to think what gets too quickly confused with privilege, which drags down the spirit in guilt and accumulation. More to think on. Meanwhile, school's out. The summer's here. The weddingits proprium, its field of connection toconnection, its place of first permissionis to come.
This is distinct, however, from all wealth which is not capable of being used in the ordinary necessities of a life or even the ordinary luxuries. From any wealth that cannot be touched or worn or walked every day by its possessor, which neither comes from nor enables the mixing-in of hands but always and inevitably exists as a kind of notional accumulation of numbers, the protection of the proprium withdraws. When you have more houses than you or your family can live in, more cars than you can drive; more income in a year than can be spent on what you or your family can actually use, even uselessly use; then we are not speaking of property anymore, not the proprium, but of the inappropriate and alienthat which one gathers to oneself through the accident of social arrangements, exploiting them willfully or accidentally, and not through the private and the personal.