Poems and Texts



And with Baltimore going up, on
a Monday, if I asked will it fly high like a bird
up in the sky and you heard
Billy Preston’s voice as much as
any sparrow in your eye it’d be
because simile is simply cinema,
the screen upon which we watch
the language we use projected,
a screen we stand behind
and from around the back
of which we can never find our way
in front, I mean without
each other, I mean, as individuals,
like owners of property, like
amputators of senses, like
those who think they’re protected
by the forces that assault others,
I mean, each other, by which I mean
not each other but all of us,
a screen we stand before and from
around the front of which we
can never find our way back,
I mean back together, I mean, like
we never were, I mean, like
when strangers insist upon referring
to us as each, I mean as individuals, like
others which we most media-ly are
and which we most immediately are not:
a mystery which, like will it go
round in circles, from around the front
of which we go and from around
the back of which we come to find that we
had already arrived where we’d begun,
I mean, left where we’ve never been,
that screen of the uncanny upon which, upon
arriving, we just miss the last glimpse
of ourselves leaving, until
Monday night when it became undeniably
clear, at least in part, at least to some, I mean, like
a song sung to friends that ain’t got
no melody or like that dance you do ain’t
got no steps and you the music
moving me around, I mean, it became clear,
at least in part, for instance: when Don
Lemon and his panel of panelists
on that channel of channelists, begin to refer
to individuals as helicopters
shoot footage of a neighborhood in chaos,
that one neighborhood in chaos,
for live TV broadcast, well, I mean, like,
it becomes absolutely clear what
we’re supposed to think chaos
is and what we’re supposed to not think
chaos is and even more clear than that
that the channel of panelists are the invisible
and indivisible individuals
and that the persons in the footage
are being amputated from our senses,
from the history of our capacity
for touch, for feeling and that we’re being
and that we’re being and that we’re being
assaulted by the force of another history,
that of a genocidal force that could be
thought of, I think productively,
as a force of individuation, which
I think could be thought of,
productively, as chaos, a productive
and destructive chaos whereby
we’re forced to buy, or rent if we
can’t afford to buy, or borrow
if we can’t afford to pay, I mean,
right now, to watch the uncanny movie
of our lives and convince
ourselves that our arrivals are departures,
that our departures are arrivals, I mean,
both of which in any case
we just missed and that that’s the reality
and we the infringement upon that reality
which, I mean, if that’s how we watch
our own—let that stand—
lives then that says something very sinister
about how we relate to anyone else, I mean,
which packages the world upon, behind,
in front of a screen of language beyond feeling
and puts the world in a pyramid
of boxes marked individual
which by now we can see is a screen
as much as a word and, when
brought to a boil, when push comes
to shove and practice surges across the line
into practical action—I mean, did anyone
else just see the young man, or woman, hood on
mask up standing outside the CVS at Penn.
and North and shot by an individual
lens hovering a thousand feet above his or her head,
as he or she stood stock still before a small
pile of something on fire, straight up, smoke in
a complex of twisters and he or she standing
arms outstretched and waving them slowly and exactly as if
preparing to take flight underwater or as if
conducting a symphony, as if listening,
possibly to Marion Anderson
singing “Ave Maria” or possibly to Phillip Bailey
singing “I’ll Write a Song for You” or,
who knows, to The Weeknd singing over Satie’s
“Dances de Travers”—
I mean, did I see that because, for all the talk
of individuals on the panel of channelists
no one said one word about that underwater
maestro doing, as if enraptured, his or her own beautiful
thing, so, I mean, in likeness of light in lenses like
those and actions like these,
just as much or more than anything else,
and in light of chaos, as us, as a historical force, we can see,
and not from a thousand feet above our heads,
that the word practical has to mean just
about anything our practice puts into the world and
the word individual probably just means legally—let that stand—culpable.

Ed Pavlić

Ed Pavlić’s new books are Let’s Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno (National Poetry Series, Fence Books, 2015) and ‘Who Can Afford to Improvise?’: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listeners (Fordham University Press, 2015). Recent works are Visiting Hours at the Color Line (National Poetry Series, Milkweed Editions, 2013), But Here Are Small Clear Refractions (Achebe Center, 2009, Kwani? Trust, 2013) and Winners Have Yet to be Announced: A Song for Donny Hathaway (U Georgia P, 2008). His other books are Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue (Copper Canyon, 2001), Crossroads Modernism: Descent and Emergence in African American Literary Culture (U Minnesota Press, 2002), and Labors Lost Left Unfinished (UPNE/Sheep Meadow Press, 2006).

His prizes include the National Poetry Series Open Competition (2012, 2014), the The American Poetry Review / Honickman First Book Prize (2001), the Writer of the Year Award from the Georgia Writer’s Association (2009), and the Darwin Turner Memorial Award from African American Review (1997). He has had fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, The Vermont Studio Center, The Willson Center for the Humanities, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. He teaches at the University of Georgia and lives in Athens, GA.

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