29 May 2010

Charles Bernstein

[from Charles Bernstein's All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010]


Listen. I can feel it. Specifically and intentionally. It does hurt. Gravity weighing it down. It's not too soft. I like it. Ringing like this. The hum. Words peeling. The one thing. Not so much limited as conditioned. Here. In this. Spurting. It tastes good. Clogs. Thick with shape. I carry it with me wherever I go. I like it like this. Smears. You can touch it. I know how to get there. Hold it. Tickles. I'm the one beside you. Needs no other. Textures of the signs of life. There is a way in. Only insofar as you let it divert you. "Short cuts, the means before the ends, the 'special ways'," all manners of veering we are schooled in. The straightest path. I don't mind waiting. In the way the world is true. I'm ready to come. Taking away what we've got doesn't compensate for what we've lost. Then, spit it out. It is heavy. Because love of language — the hum — the huhuman — excludes its reduction to a scientifically managed system of reference in which all is expediency and truth is nowhere. Schooled and reschooled. The core is neither soft nor hard. It's not the supposed referent that has that truth. Words themselves. The particulars of the language and not, note, the "depth structures" that "underlie" "all languages" require the attention of that which is neither incidentally nor accidentally related to the world. It's sweet enough. Not mere grids of possible worlds, as if truth were some kind of kicking boy, a form of rhetoric. Truthfulness, love of language: attending its telling. It's not unfair to read intentionality into other people's actions. The mocking of language (making as if it were a mock-up) evades rather than liberates. The world is in them. I can feel the weight of the fog. Hung. The hum is it. Touch it as it hangs on you. It feels good. I say so. I am not embarrassed to be embarrassed. My elementary school teachers thought I was vague, unsocial, & lacked the ability to coordinate the small muscles in my hands. The way it feels. The mistake is to think you can put on the mask at work and then take it off when you get home. I enjoy it. If I acted like a manager to please my managers it would be irrelevant what I thought "privately." The one-two punch: behaviorism and meritocracy. I couldn't spell at school and still can't. "Legibility," "diction," "orthography," "expository clarity." We have all been emptied of emotion. Shells, i.e., going through the motions of touching, holding, coming without care, love, etc. I'm trapped by the job only insofar as I transpose my language to fit it. An erotic pleasure pressing against the pen with my thumb, sore under the nail from a splinter. Then, come closer. Class struggle is certainly not furthered by poetry itself. Shards. Not how we're special that's important but how we're not. I would rather explore the quarry that is my life. Punched out of us. What I didn't learn in school was how to gaze on the mistakes I made out of sheer mediocrity. Intently. They are necessary. I don't mind feeling cramped. It is necessary constantly to remind ourselves of our weaknesses, deficiencies, and failings. Comes back. Not meet you or make you — certainly not figure you out — but to stand next to, be there with. Peaches and apples and pears; biscuits and French sauces. Acknowledgement. We can get up. A blur is no reason for distress. Already made it. The mists before each of us at any time can put to rest any lingering fantasies of clear view. I can still hear it. I'm sure. My present happiness is not what's important. My body. Well, I'm no different. The mistake is to look for the hidden. All here. A world of answers, sentence by sentence. By an act of will. I am as responsible for that "mask" as anything. If I look hard I can see it. The fact of an affluent white man seeking power is enough to make me distrust him. Give it up. It does matter. It is important. You refused because you realized order without justice is tyranny. There are alternatives. We live here. It's time. This is my secret. I knew from the first school wasn't for me. I would accept it if you said it. I no longer need to worry about sincerity. I am the masked man. Its purple. Orange. Queen Victoria Vermilion. A world of uncertainty and wonder. Sky grey. Of satisfaction. Let me stay in. This clearing. Security one more unnecessary underlining. I may stumble but I won't collapse. It's a nice day, the sun shines, the air has cleared. It's so blue. I like the fog. My reasons satisfy me. I have a place to sit. I've located it. It's enough. Worth. Holds. I want particulars. I have put out confusion. Tell me and I can tell you. I woke up. I met this girl. The morning came. I got it. It makes the tune my ear fashions. Slowly. Let me pronounce it for you.

Listen to Charles Bernstein read this.

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