Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dear at Any Price

—who, fearing for the health of their heart, declined to, panting and by degrees, climb the 354 steps to the top of the Statue of Liberty where at a glance, mastery, & the thick concrescence of harbor and skyline—; or afraid of heights, of things that turn on themselves, turned back, afraid of freedom & its fall, maybe, or heights which condescending to the verdigris, fish-bowled depths demand the turned glance, still spinning; free which derives from the Sankrit endearment priyá (dear), from prî (to delight, endear, love): applied to the beloved of a household to distinguish them from the servants; applied to the citizens of a country to distinguish them from the slaves; similar to liberty, from the Lat. līberī ‘children,’ distinguished, again, from the slaves of a household. If you love someone, sings Sting, set them free. Freedom is not free, says the bumper-sticker. No fear. If you are not loved, are you not free? Is to be free to be a child, beholden, owned by that love? How much love do you need to be free? A healthy, 17-year-old slave in 1820 was worth about fifteen-thousand real dollars. How much, in real love, is the antidote for that? Is that how much I love my son? Does it cost money to love? I don’t think I love enough, am loved enough, have money enough for enough love. The slave trader invests that fifteen-thousand dollars of not-love and today it’s worth a fortune in unlovely real-estate or flags or cocoa. I’m not sure if money can mean love, if I can buy my girlfriend hyacinths or chocolate and make it mean love and not not-love. I am sure that money is what Americans mean by freedom mostly; I am sure that the bulk of the chocolate I have stopped eating, recently, is produced by children, slaves, in the Ivory Coast, who perish in great numbers of the wretched cancers and wasting diseases the insecticide poured onto cocoa-trees produces. I hope someone loves them. I’m not sure what difference that makes. Ai, Ai, weep the hyacinths at the gravesite, alpha and iota (άί) inscribed on their petals.

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