Issue 2: Chris Nealon & Joshua Clover


That too counts as architecture this time around

And suits you. How the shiny fabric changes color

Becomes a way of knowing about yourself by not

Reflecting on it much – O to die among such

Opulent miseries of the common man of surplus

Vents and pockets! On the grass the lower gentry

Acted out scenes from the life of the macroeconomics

It knew best, returning often to the part where

Everyone pretends to be the miserable of the earth.

Children with their outsized backpacks file past you

And your own youth and a comic terror like a thought balloon

Bump each other eagerly while the bailiff

Laughs like fire. Jail isn't everything it's cracked

Up to be, is it son? At least the security state is good

To its family and friends and in that way is an example

Of how the fabric changes color if you're willing

So as to conceal you from the sky — kudos to the

Aesthetic overlords. The Franco-Prussian War

Was known for peripheral railroads and rat-eating

In the bright sunshine, heavy with love — at least

We all believed it deserved the name of love against

What counted as an architecture that time around:

Tattered suit, cool grenier, patriotism — the second stories.

There was a restful Mafioso feeling in the great museums

Of the present and order was the terror of the day

The same way safety was: the triumph and the grave

Were everybody's temporary tattoos and then the festival ended.

I typed "hate" into the box. I thought I would break.

That's the punctuation that lets another sentence begin

To flower, spattered with provincial dust and mud

In the gully running alongside the Way of the World

Insignias, choose your favorite, some say Vanitas

Is just Renaissance for skullfucking, some say

The bronze will turn to gold just before the end

Stop by which we periodize the swoopings of the dead.

Few of us have ever visited the Tokyo Stock Exchange

Without bursting into flames of laughter beyond

The circling glass, or the Siemens plant in Karlsruhe

Without feeling a little gursky around the edges

Of our own scheme, believing it to be another's.

Does the great peace ever come, or just booty?

It's not just the pirates that say "aarrrr" in the late

Style of an earlier age, it's the street-sweepers

Shrugging off the panic of the day almost successfully

Under Table Mountain in the medium of grit

That you have come to call life, filled with lifeyness

That flashes green at the last second and leaves

The money on the dresser before slipping out into

Its playtime. Someone's built a roundabout

Way of saying so. That someone is you!

You loved a darling robot with garland brow designed to

Speak its one true name that you forgot over and over,

Though the procedure always takes exactly nineteen minutes

Fewer than the movie version, crackling with

Small red stars that eclipse the center of the sun.

It's hard to call that a reverie Joan, but kids

Will pick up dreams where you left off,

Perhaps thinking they are a new kind of candy

Called Yes-or-Yes that makes it harder to decide

Which book to read next, or which leaves

To paste onto its pages — it's the season

Still without a donor so known only as "Season 5,"

In which we've lost key protagonists and the cyclical

Sense of things, where life is always nearby but

Backing away from us, as if it knew we wanted

More than we do. Okay. What does it want?

I think it wants to see leopard vs. orca

But without the high moral seriousness that comes

To function as giraffe or referee for whatever monkey.

There are only so many hours in the day and then some.

Think of red-lipped John of Patmos holding up his pen

As if suspecting his eros could no more withstand

Real scrutiny any more than last summer's wistful theme song,

Lions After Slumber. The piece of cake of the world

We know has blocked our hunger for another one

And it's been getting pretty...valedictory? here.

That too counts as architecture this time around

The lake with you and in memory of your entourage

Of wishes. Welcome back. Greeted by cherubs

Wafted by the day's sweet incalculable irony

Towards a narrow shore where water-droplets

Arrange themselves into the emotion called "thud"

In the minor literary language of the cavemen,

Borko and Squonk and Ludovico. The gang.

I wanted to spank those cherubs with Maleviches

But nothing you can do with negativity will make a mark

Like our dark branding does. Go home and download

The possibilities before rational choice bangs

Down the door, or face the consequences

And...well, you can't spell dance without dna.

Hell you can't spell Shining Neon Seraph Heart

And expect to walk away unchanged, kissing the police

Is thankless but somebody's gotta do it. And you

Were the feelings the firemen started to have

At night, you were what they waited for when

The clock drained itself of light and then began to fill

With sand: a minute of life in which the perfect

Escape meant never quite leaving after much preparation

And a call to a cab. You blink. Your eyes stream images

Like there's no tomorrow for images. Flow my tears the

Way you will with people on the verge of not even trying

On those costumes that make an afternoon bubbly

Bubblier bubbliest and an evening louche until terrain

Begins terfall. Ouch! The weather of this song

Is how it kids itself, going I'm still real, I'm not

Reducible to structure or the tympanum's chance

Encounters or a shot at glory on the second-tier

Circuit, state fairs and interstate projects. It was

More than anyone could ask for and at the same time it was

What the day, having no choice, was made of.

But if you are what you say you are

And the future remains a bunch of searchlights

Caught in each other's glare, then we're looking at

The sense of what comes before us and remains

At the same time and possibly twice in both directions

As a kind of hope, like that estuarial voyage beginning

Blue and ending white-hot when the air traffic

Finally admits it's beat and gets a real job.

That was 1981. Later several of us wrote the code

Designed to replace us and collapsed giggling

Into the back page of "the most sensible publication

For the uncommon man." Hieronymo's for sale againe.

And you've been drawn into a world of poetry

Like some stupid Casbah structured like the unconscious

Wishes of the drinks they're serving after hours when

Language busts in dressed as the police. Memories of

The old marketplace, that light opera laid over

The libretto of what happens, the chorus of haircuts

And shaved heads. Then I entertained the troops.

Haven't you heard? — my fox-trot style is unstoppable

And you can tell the Castles I said so. Back in 1914

It was Christmas Eve for a few months and sisters

Of mercy patrolled the area between the armory

And the future the kids called Dialectical Alley.

Teen wizards. Elsewhere we are just impostors in this

What do you call it again? Fete sans fin, weltpartei, something

Suited to the way it felt to be alive when only six

Words could turn the future into the present, not

By harrowing hell so much as jiggling the handle

Absentmindedly, which was the only way to approach

The heart of the system at its ides or unauthenticated

Make our way to the peacock pavilion of the present

Morass. We are all transcaucasians now. Check it while

The lines redraw themselves as if by magic, the magic of

The unaffordable becoming cheap and cheapness coming

From the future. Spectres of Doctor Who's a timelord now?

And which one of you is Marx? Waiting for a Saturday

Takes two hours of overtime and a dreamy cigarette break

Rereading The Perils of Milton and Maynard as they

Hokum it up with those hopes messianic on the road

To Rouen, duck! They're coming in for a landing

Or two before lunchtime and then its back to the grand game

Or the war of position where you stay out super-late

Singing a little ditty I like to call "Polish the Volatility!"

Whose refrain will take you all the way into the whistle register

Before leading you back to the one you loved

In cordoned-off parade days like it was the only

Chance you'd have. A pause, a lemon sigh, and the books

Stacked high behind you almost add up to feeling

Something that's traded on the brain markets

More or less frantically depending on the time.

We had been trying to find a new name for time

And generally came up empty-handed, though

Strangely refreshed as one dipped into a pool of

Phosphorescent, wriggling futures might think, "Hey,

The future is awesome! Video fidelity off the charts

And oh my god that one kid's hair is really long now."

There was nothing to do about it and after awhile

Your fingertips got cold: frost and ice-wine

Purled in the gutters and didn't you still love it

When the gray sides parted to reveal more gray

Like atmosphere, austere, receding and whether

Or not you knew it, free — like a free ride on the banks

In the lingo of the Metaphysics, we called it a bank run

But later they changed it to The Flight To Quality.

Peasants hissed or gawked as our carriage passed

And we gawked back, stunned, stunned that anyone

Was left alive and free out there in the pretty periphery

Where nations rise and fall — roads, canals, and bridges

Being the acne of adolescent empires. Later, scars.

Not everyone can be a coal miner's daughter

And one day come to testify on how things

Expand themselves, corn produces more corn,

Thoughts more thoughts, and still the surplus tries

To make a little Scotsman out of everyone

And I was all like mmm yeah the Enlightenment

Is gonna rock this year. Computers and potatoes

Taught me more than I'll ever know and now

My sense of equipoise is just, whatever happens

Is nine tenths of the law and the rest is interest

Or a long indifference curve — so the little model

Becomes a presentiment of how we would live

Among the giants, climbing beanpoles, guessing

Again. But please, is there any more of this?

You bet there is. It's what holds a city together

Against the centrifuge of overdevelopment and speed

That orbitals were built to manage: if A =

Apples, this was a happy life. But the citizens' orchard

Is a figment on the diamondized screen at the back

Of your mind, and not in a seventies way. So bless your

Heart and curl your toes as long as you're ready for the role

That awaits you like tomorrow's fresh suit laid on the bed —

Like a minor magister of finance at the first June

In several years. But everybody loved May.

There were afternoons around the Stammtisch

And the birds knew our names and pecked at our crumbs

And rolled up their sleeves so we could get to work on

Abstraction as a lifestyle that feeds itself

Concretion: windows, walls, ideas, everything.

Chris Nealon teaches in the English Department at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of two books of poems, The Joyous Age (2004) and Plummet (forthcoming, 2009). 

Joshua Clover teaches at the University of California, Davis, and is the author of Madonna Anno Domini (1996) and The Totality for Kids (2006). He has a newfound respect for acid house 20 years after the fact, particularly the subgenre he identifies as "winter acid."