“We’re not people, we’re lithographs” writes Andrew Levy in “The Putative Tiring of Light.” And the question, then, is where did we get the concept of “people” to begin with as we continue to reproduce our inhumanity from out of this enormous copy machine? “We’re only real between acts” the poem continues. Is this a place we can inhabit? A place, it seems, must be a performance, it must be we tell ourselves, until we find ourselves in the quietest of yards, our face towards a high wall, as the eyes of murderers and thieves (we think) look down upon us…as we look down upon us...and we too attend the performance.
And as the gesture is made, the one that means “this is the final puzzle piece that I have in my hand,” immediately comes the realization in looking at the hole where the performer is (the hole where the performer would see himself if he were the audience): it is the wrong piece—as performer and audience trade place, and “between” gets redefined not as space, but as lack of it.
And that humming sound that you hear, that, is the sound that language makes when you try to listen.
Artifice in the Calm Damages
It will arrive beneath the skin, leave no footprint.
It’s backward compatible. Neonics are threatening
our bees. The contingent sweat carving up lettuce
from a vicious pile of soldiers promises salvation in
a layer of non and for profit hierarchies that govern
and shape an indentured sobriety to reverse
a Technicolor yawn under which we go to war.
Why is the baby on the bench? I came with them
and then I was kicked out. Cure in the sense
of stopping the pathology among the genres of
a happy ending? The ink that neglects the class
war protects the particular identity groping toward
the already vanished forgetfulness. Look what you
did to me, babe, says the context of go and be evil.
An unfinished garden of involuntary. Either you
have someone’s attention regardless of benediction
or your trip advisor over tea and cakes composes
an upper class protocol to protect you from other
people. But I guess you, free and secure citizens
pruned in the educated restructure of feeling and
thought washed clean, know that already. Brass
tongues vomit all over me, it’s demoralizing. Do I
complain? I don’t know what to say. Molasses?
Prayer-like subterranean dispatch? Separation
personality lengthened impeachable pamphlets quid
pro quo? This bill just gets worse and worse. Whose
jobs were off-shored or eliminated by import
competition? What the fuck did you *think* they
were going to assemble? I think we need one now
where the baby wears holsters.
The Putative Tiring of Light to William Fuller
The paradox of capitalist labor is a fine thing, but
it is not the place of sanctity. One dwells in the recognition
of a demi-quintessence, hours of toil that vary with position
or time, that eventually leaves one’s pocket, ghost of the departed
slowed to an adagio, paralyzed by its haste. Everything else
rots in hell in the unenviable position of having to study
work and points of departure, perhaps some form of manual
control, and neither very rational. Dialogue with one’s material
takes the optometrist’s job that smells of laundry soap
and mildew along the hallway where the spiders hang and wait.
I mean that literally, and metaphorically. Adults who cry
when they die did not have mothers who would comfort them.
What is constant, if it exists, is not really constant.
We’re not people, we’re lithographs. We’re only real
between acts. The best of our domestic imprecations allow one
to expire resplendent with desire, part of the unstoppable drift
in time and thus operative imaginative trees becoming stars
creating space. Climbing down from my tree the sole
of my right foot keeps the only knowledge it retains
on the top of my sandals. Striving in both construction and
surface may be something ordained to serve us – a cactus
garden, birds hunting insects in the needles; circummed by
a regiment of idleness, an abyss of saffron fertilizer, Exxon tanks,
soap plants spilling into key streams, neuromolecular death
turning down the lender of last resort. Genius conjectures
on lonely fantasies accidentally imprisoned in retirement
to avoid an apology. Seeing that intimacy is effortless it has
no need to come inside one’s cabin waving its feet in
safety-deposit envelopes of the Divine, which heartbroken,
calls from a huge bedroom and cries, “the impeded
stream is the one that sings.”
Country of Lost Borders on 9-11-15 to Norman Fischer
Every man casts a shadow; everyday helicopter pilots
circumnavigate state-of-the-art surveillance arrangements,
boasting to the children of prospective residents
not their bodies only, but their imperfectly mingled spirits.
A nocturnal telephone call is their grief; they believe
that they know this Country of Lost Borders well
though a great number have lost their lives
in the process of proving where it is not safe to go.
Giant fingers can lift some of the weight of congenital
prejudice. There are many ways we catch glances
in each other’s eyes and see ourselves as inviolate, or at best
known only to some far-straying Indian, sheepherder,
or pocket hunter, whose account cannot be reached
through words or deliberation. To completely liberate
the patterns of thought is a task that requires
an opening like flowers in a speeded-up film
to the Garden of Eden. It is now possible to pass
through much of the district by guide-posts and well-known
waterholes, but the best part of it remains locked,
inviolate. But what happens when the Garden fails us?
People begin to look behind the bushes, the syrup
of sentimental moods adhere to their judgements.
Poets write books in which the popularity of their poetry
stands registered, ruffles often folded for no other reason
than to demonstrate a fold. Piety is perhaps over,
in the beginning was the word. Let one turn it
which way one will, it falls opposite to the sun;
short at noon, long at eve. Its song penetrates through
everything, but nothing can withstand its silence.
Teachers and advisers tumble down, always scared
of falling, taking their cues from books.
Filth, Blood, and Noise
The player is a liar when he says sometimes wind and sometimes
women, sometimes waves and sometimes seals. The player is a liar
when he says one’s environment is a key to one’s identity, but that his
environment is a lost key. The player is a liar when he says jealousy
in men is as good as dollars in the soul, that men’s souls are oriented not
to miss things. The player is a liar when he says one’s environment is
the key to one’s identity, and that his environment is the master key.
The player is a liar when he says an ounce of genuine interest would be
a start, and steadfast resolution is thicker than water. The player is a liar
when he says a worm returned to soil, and wished he were it.
The player is a liar when he says I want dynamite under my car seat, but
there’s another wheel turning. When he says all the news without fear
or favor, the kiss of death is good. The player is a liar when he says
innumerable unseen spirits kick metaphysical footballs in a different
cemetery than the cemetery he lives in. The player is lying when he says
no one sees a subtextual reference to scrutinizing the remotest corners
most carefully guarded secrets, to pushes into the East Siberian Sea
and the Transpolar Drift, the rocky distant rim of the Canadian Shield.
The player is lying when he looks into the world of inquisition, when
he separates one integral part of any work from another. When he says
he was promised a world of lost forests, folded mountains, and labyrinthine
hiding places, a snack, something serious to eat, a mirage of salvation,
ascension sharp enough to consume sanity. The player is lying when
he says winter thaws to summer, the pack ice breaks up into the Chukchi Sea,
where warm Pacific waters join the gyre as it turns in its grinding cycle.
The player is a liar when he says he is falling back to earth in the form
of pine needles, that he is no better than those other clones. The player’s
soul is at work disappearing in lies, communicating its isolation as total.
When he says that the wings of the news are a malady, and the finalist
became a doctor of philosophy. He is a liar when the extermination
of the underclass is harvested on his tongue, when the processing line
will be cleaned and silent. He is lying at the end of the lane, slowly turning
in the dirt. His thoughts and actions are elegiac fragments, mechanisms
which flicker above the wrong note. When the circus in any labor wishes
to act not as a condition of membership but synthesized in underground
factories the requisite neurochemicals of cautious steps, an abyss
of crop-duster dictums spoken by twenty-first century revolutionaries
via minor routes, filth, blood, and noise.
Consider Sending to my brother, Jeffrey
Something juvenile and ditzy, composed of many pieces of what
we *live in* pushed back against what interests you. I hear you
when you say what I too feel, “it is all set to kill us.” Everything
that we do is in time. We’re beginning to see where it’s going wrong –
namely, that a lot of what we take to be fact is not really fact. The news
from Afghanistan to Paris to NYC to Florida, the many shootings, here
and abroad, implies that our whole way of seeing the world could change.
What is offputtingly utopian and idealizing may be experienced by
another as an opening to further change. But what does that mean?
A plant’s coming into being, or maturation, is such a quiet progression
that we tend to focus on the fruit, the colorful prize of production
and the vessel of taste. Is it a subtle form of self-deception? Isn’t
self-deception used to cover up contradiction, confusion? Why are people
caught up all the time in defending it? When you say what I too feel,
I’ll begin acknowledging it, but I won’t be caught up all the time
in defending it. You find out what is wrong and change it, which will
nourish the seedling plant when it emerges. There are more things
in heaven and earth, matter in and outside the brain. I feel like a wet seed
wild in the hot blind earth, skyscrapers. The bulk of CO2 buildup
in the atmosphere. Spaghetti very low there will be large-scale diversions,
serial declarations of “all clear” and “comeback kid” signals given,
but the many malevolent genies are already out of the bottle
and will not be put back without having their say. Everything we did is
going in all sorts of directions, with thoughts conflicting and canceling
each other out, producing what João Biehl calls “zones of social
abandonment,” which “accelerate the death of the unwanted.” That’s the
situation as it occurs in dreams; it places exchanges of linguistic
information right in “the middle.” But when you’re not dreaming, and
you open that box? The bandwidth of senses, poverty, hunger,
psychological cruelty, proposals of significance and meaning. Everyone
present of merit. Disallowing the lives of others.
Andrew Levy is the author of Don’t Forget to Breathe (Chax Press, 2012), Nothing Is In Here (EOAGH Books, 2011), Cracking Up (Truck Books, 2010), and eleven other titles of poetry and prose including The Big Melt (Factory School), Paper Head Last Lyrics (Roof Books), Ashoka (Zasterle), and Values Chauffeur You (O Books). His forthcoming title is A Great Blue Wet World of Thought. Levy’s poems and essays have appeared in numerous American and international magazines as well as anthologies including The Art of Practice: 45 Contemporary Poets, The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry, Telling It Slant: Avant-Garde Poetics of the 1990s, and LITSCAPES – Collected US Writings 2015. He co-edited and published with Roberto Harrison the journal Crayon 1997-2008. Levy lives in New York City.