What is to be done?
Take to the streets! But there are no streets worth taking in this country. Or to put it more positively, the streets already belong to us. The cities are with us. It’s the roads we need to take. The roads and the fields and the exurbs and the shopping plazas and the call centers and the malls. Especially the malls. And the churches. We need, maybe most of all, to make our presence felt in the megachurches. To be up on the big hallelujah screens with our gospel and our skin colors and our genitals and our weird ideas about ownership and our love.
But we don’t really want to go there, do we?
We want to be angry atheists and the sexiest man or woman alive in our local socialist cell. We want to carry signs and shout ourselves hoarse until every last slogan sheds its irony. We want to block highways obstructing the traffic home of those who mostly already agree with us.
I just wasn’t made for these times.
I wanted to say something about Neruda in this poem, something about his questions, something about the autumns of Neruda and how we don’t count his 9/11 as he couldn't count his Novembers. But Neruda it turns out was a rapist and so I let his ruined magnificent head sink out of sight, like Cortazar’s ship of fools, like a blind trail into the mountains. No pasarán that way. No way out.
The I appears, a Jewish I at the precise historical moment when such an I, like the I-beam it resembles, is no longer load-bearing. As in brutalist or postmodernist architecture the Jewish I has become ornamental, where it is not being used to build the containment wall in the West Bank. The Jewish I used to be adequate symbol for the man on whom the sun of history had gone down. That’s Ezra Pound I think. His anti-Semitism no longer scans. I are on its own.
I have a Jewish I that resents the limited means of political expression on sale at my local Target. Marching, shouting, boycotting, signing petitions, calling elected representatives, writing letters, writing emails, writing tweets, writing status updates, writing poems. My I doesn’t like any of those choices except for the last one, which you can’t buy from Political Target because it’s free. I already has a lifetime supply of its own uselessness.
And my Jewish I lives in a safe state called whiteness where my vote doesn’t count.
And my Jewish I is a male I that never measures in millimeters the space between his knees when siting on the train writing as I do right now, the sun picking its path through the skimpy trees of November. November! Remember before November our idea of November, in the era of the endless election how we looked forward to everything being over? How wrong we were, and how right.
But this is precisely what’s defective about the I that I can’t return to Political Target for a refund let alone store credit. This Freudian shilly-shallying. This conviction that every conviction I muster and direct from my mouth is met and confounded by its opposite churning in my breast. Maybe it’s because I’m a Libra. A Libra sees both sides of every question. Its symbol is a set of scales that ought to symbolize judgment, but really symbolizes its opposite.
And is the suspension of judgment the same as the suspension of justice? It must be. And if I live in such suspense, must I expect those with a thumb on my scale to prevail, always? Very true, Socrates. They came for you, didn’t they, an hour before dawn. They permitted you your magnificent defense—you, the enemy of the poets. Then you drank poison, which quickly destroyed the serenity of your flesh. A debt left unpaid to the healer. You wrote nothing. You had nothing more to say.
I’m reading theory again, Alain Badiou mostly. He has a good global diagnosis of our situation, go read it. I’ll wait for you to come back. http://mariborchan.si/video/alain-badiou/reflections-on-the-recent-election/
So you’re back and I see your skepticism, it’s written all over your face. He wants to imagine a different world, you sneer. He wants to offer this world a genuine contradiction. He believes that poor old Bernie Sanders represents a true contradiction of the system that both Hillary and Trump are inside of and are almost equally incapable of opposing. He wants to feel optimism. To be left alone to write his poems inside the old sharpening of the contradictions routine. He’s forgotten Rosa Luxemburg. He’s forgotten the fate of the Popular Front. He’s forgotten how to bleed, if he ever knew. He’s a coward cowering with his books.
Comrades, I say. I wait for the bitter laughter to die. Comrades.
You are waiting for me to say more. The silence is growing uncomfortable, as we are all uncomfortable in this hot and dusty room. A room with no windows and only the door by which we entered. A room you might hold a twelve-step meeting in, or a police interrogation. A room with no character, no life, but that which is placed in it. A room of reverberate walls. A room of the mind and its patience. A place for the genuine.
And again, Comrades.
The murmur is growing as it becomes clearer and clearer that I have nothing else to say. Nothing but your word. Comrades.
Comrades, my tears. A word. Comrades.
It is something with which to begin.