Monday, January 31, 2005

Today's Reading

Worst days, when I wane, impotent and mildly bourgeois beside the radio or in front of the blinking cursor, I may fall prone to a hopeless countenancing of humanity's-end-as-only-viable-solution-to-humanity's-problems--without, of course, the metaphysical fireworks and fireside chat with God. I might say, to anyone within earshot, "get on with it and kill us all. Just hurry." This happens less now that I have a child and furniture from IKEA for which there is no refund policy in the afterlife. But it happens, and if I wanted to understand this impulse better I might turn to Fanny Howe's Selected Poems (California, 2000), where the end of suffering, the end of capitalism's vicissitudes is figured and reconfigured in many an open-ended, hush-filled poem-sequence.

Most days aren't worst, however, and I play with the baby and put blood--er, gasoline-- in the car, buoyed by whatever anti-entropic, beautifully inhuman force I'm using as my soundtrack to get through the day. I like to think it's something more than fear or self-preservation, and if I were the speaker of Howe's poems I would be confirmed in that belief. Even if, like the speaker of "Robeson Street," the concord I long for / Is like not being alive but finished," paradoxically, if I allow myself such a wish-- if I'm chill with, like, the worst-- I'm given the necessary fortitude to ". . . set up a night fork / And face the materials." This teleological view, this willingness to bear the end, gives Howe a remarkably perceptive apparatus, where

Away from the park and zoo

bends become
calamities of bricked-up

but also where "black grackles . . . sit between / each invisible spot of/ happiness." Well, not so invisible. Not today, and not for this reader.

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