Kent Johnson
Twenty Hinged Propositions in Search of a Lost Political Poem

In my country, murmured Swann through the hood, the clock is a dog for time. Time
            does not mean to be listened to: humiliating in its disguises, heedless of the ocean.

The ocean is the death young men hope for; they who are bruised chimeras of the poem.
            The poem is an urn, between silhouettes.

The silhouettes are serious and dark, Odette, nostalgic for space. Space makes a fact of
            their factitiousness.

Factitiousness is a space for forging the truth. The truth, so to speak, is a problem for

Poets are problems for the experts of poetry. The experts of poetry cover their flesh
            with signs and greatly fan themselves with scrolls: they are part of the weather,
            these papyrus odes exalting death.

Death is a sky to the hopeful young man. The young man glares back at the sun and
            arches his spine like a young pine in the wind; in my country, Odette, it’s blowing
            a gale up on the mountain.

The mountain is a gin-clear river, according to a sutra in Buddhism; you can even see
            salamanders on the bottom, moving their feathery, incarnadine gills. Gills open
            and close; silhouettes become an urn; the river is slow as an old dog: beneath the
            sky it  slowly flows, carrying the moon.

The moon is a picture on a house-shaped clock. The clock, it is ringed with pictures of
            nightingales, Swann, and when it’s their turn they sing their mechanical songs,
            while the experts of poetry emerge from the clock to drink from the urn.

The urn cares not about its own lubricity: mind is a donkey, words are a horse; they shall
            be bridled by the grad student. The grad student, denizen of the mountain, is
            heedless she is the odalisque of the search engine; doleful, in her gunny habiment,
            she whistles a tune, gazing on the campion and its tiny corolla.

The corolla has no scale; like the moon, it is a mind to the clouds. The clouds billow
            up for hundreds of miles, more power therein than a million Hiroshimas, and
            when the experts of poetry wake with a start, soaked to the ashes of their flesh,
            the periwinkled sky gleams like a mosque.

The mosque is a place full of arches to which many people come to pray; temple of
            Delight, wherein Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine, it is an urn to the
            silhouettes: the forger steals the flax and lays it on the altar of the experts of
            poetry, who move their feathery, incarnadine gills deep in the clear water of the
            flowing mountain. The mountain slowly flows beneath the helicoptered sky.

The sky is structured like a language, with machines, wetness, weather, and phosphorous;
            it is like clock work: bodies pile up like phrase hits in the ward. A ward, Odette, is
            a place to which many people come to pray.

To pray is what children did at bedtime, in the early 1960’s, wearing pajamas with little
            helicopters and missiles, rubber soles on the booties, like those of my brother and
            me. My brother and me, like, once we were kneeling there by the bed, and I was
            five or six and he was three or four, and I looked over at him beside me there, his
            little hands folded and his eyes shut tight, his lips moving, and I don’t know why,
            but I unfolded my hands and I lifted one of them up and I slapped him as hard as I
            could across his little face as it prayed for all the other children of the world, and
            he fell over and started to gasp and weep on the floor, but I don’t remember
            anything after that, just the gasping and the weeping.

The gasping and weeping of people inside a sky that is structured like a language is very
            boring in poems, for poems should be abstract and should give pleasure. Pleasure
            is a violence from within that protects us from a violence without, said the expert
            of poetry.

Poetry should not be about, he said, for to be “about is the old taboo.” The old taboo is a
            problem for poets: it thrashes about impolitely like a grad student on phosphorous
            fire, clawing up the acclivity of the desolate fell; something huge and metallic
            inscribes white signs overhead, annular and abstract, on the sky’s blue page.

The page is ensorcelled, Swann, torn from its incunabulum. The incunabulum was of
            Modernism, looted from a museum: huge, helical skeins of subfusc and papyrus,
            bound by withe, smolder in the deer park.

The deer park is a pleasant place for the practice of Buddhism. Buddhism, purporting to
            counter narcissism, is increasingly connected to position-taking with a vengeance
            in the American literary field.

The field is covered in acanthus and ailanthus; deracinated wisteria withers in piles along
            the runway in the New Jersey sun. The New Jersey sun is warm in the
            documentary about the Geraldine Dodge Festival; the sound of jet engines and the
            sound of the ocean are edited from the film.

Film viridescently covers the ornamental pond. The pond cools symmetrical bundles of
            long, metallic rods; it is early spring.

Spring is coming earlier, Odette, and getting warmer. Warmer is what you get, my
            Swann, when you have a “political poem” in hand, and you’re near the bottom of
            the donkey, stumbling, with a hood on your head.