Pollarding & Animal Spirits
In this unwitting dawn. In the begonia
I put in the poem because of its incantatory
sound. In the vine I thought was a sweet
pea—to put a sweet pea in the poem—
but was actually a weed, common vetch.
In the still early summer heat like gentle
pressure on the forearms and wrists.
A trio of military planes screams overhead.
I squint into the glare and the leftover
cosmetic product on my hands flashes
in a type of dim recognition. Wash it off. Who
is going to read about botanical misprision.
There’s a war on and I am the yellowing
pages of Bishop’s National Geographic.
There’s always a war on and its location
is not a function of place but of people, plucked
for the vase or the oven, wilting or burning or
eaten as a delicacy. The word of the day
is upward. The word of the day is all cops
are bastards. Who am I to say what we should make
of the clay at our feet, minor gods with shovels
and grass seed, with kilns and molds, the joints of
our fingers curling around some texture, releasing
it in the checkout aisle or through the window
that backs the checkout aisle.
After adrenaline, a comedown just like any
other high. You’re sitting on the floor in a hoodie
and biting all the skin off your lips. Outside,
the day continues to mulch itself, there are
robins, someone is invoicing someone else
for another order of rubber bullets.
The symbolic vulture will not arrive
To hunch in the middle distance. Sorry,
I’m back now, I was on the patio this whole time,
my mouth is bleeding and the roar has faded
such that it might be mistaken for an air conditioner,
the mechanical hum of comfort
in deeply inhospitable environments,
a fueled and speedy monarchy, it’s coming,
I tell myself, get up, it’s well-rested and armed
to the teeth literally but also and importantly
for my purposes metaphorically, a giant blossoming
of dipshit noisemaking. It doesn’t have to go
to the office and it is responsible for the existence
of Phoenix, Arizona. I wobble on my feet
like a newborn anything. I am melancholic
about structures. Look: no matter what you grab
out of the kitchen drawer, it can be used
as a lever. In what follows, we’re on the side
of the ice, those tropical begonias be damned.
“If the animal spirits are dimmed and the spontaneous optimism falters, leaving us to depend on nothing but a mathematical expectation, enterprise will fade and die.” —John Maynard Keynes
Enterprise withering on the vine. Enterprise left to rot in the sun.
Out of its carcass, a cooler wind—
/ / /
If the world is bad to you, you are sad.
If the world is good to you, but you know about the world, you are sad.
If the world is good to you, and you do not know about the world, you will not be sad.
If the world was bad to you but it is no longer, it is easy to forget about the world, and easy to
forget you were ever sad.
O dripping globe. What we’ve blamed
on the elements. On the accident
of our cells rather than the rapidity
with which we turn water to cement.
/ / /
The idea that the brain is the seat of the soul is older than most people think it is.
The history of naturalizing economic activity is exactly as long as you think it is.
We were made for money / / we were made of money
/ / /
Falling through a substrate,
the gentle “u” of the body as it faces upward. The hands and feet like a dancer’s, directional.
On the curb, a man turns over shovelfuls of dampened sand in a wheelbarrow. The sound is like
stiff fabrics hung too close to one another on a line. A recursive intimacy.
A brief and wild optimism, and then the grinding sludge of machinery, its unmatchable
/ / /
A bull in the blood.
A bull made of blood, made of air, air carried in the blood air seated in the brain.
The brain a bull. The world a bull with its hooves on the world.
O beast that could be gentle. Asleep in the beige autumn of the shaken head, slow wading
through the pool of counter-liquefaction.
In the hand outstretched, these cool bristles
like a hand broom, a horned smoothness and the scent
of fields and a fire recently extinguished. This animal pause.
/ / /
Frenzied acquisition of undergarments,
small vases, linens, soaps, followed by the hatred of stuff—
/ / /
The dog on the surface of the water, the dog on the silver of the coin.1
1See Robert Burton, in Anatomy of Melancholy, on rabidity: “That in Hydrophobia they seem to see the picture of a dog still in their water” (222).