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luís soares

Blog do escritor Luís Soares

Juliana Spahr - Responding

        I

 

This is a place without a terrain a government that always

          changes an unstable language. Even buildings disappear

          from day to day.

 

[gendered pronoun] wanders in this place

                                                                       [searching

                                                                                                [waiting

 

the condition of unbearableness is the constant state of mind

            for all occupants

 

we read all day in the village square during the rule of [name

          of major historical figure] a book that is so subtle

 

                                                   [its political content goes unnoticed

 

what is political content?

 

                                                          [the question or the statement

 

[gender pronoun] creates

 

                                        [a reader culture

 

                                        [generic plural pronoun] prefer both

 

                                                      II

 

realism's authenticities are not the question

 

the question [role of art in the State

 

we know art is fundamental to the [New State] as is evidenced

         in village scenes, majestic ancient views, masses and

         masses of [generic human figures] marching in columns,

         swords coded as plowshares, image as spectacle

 

we kn0w [name of city], [adjective], [name of major composer]

to recode [reduce] it: Linz, ambiguous, Wagner

 

we know [name of major historical figure] calls, authentically,

         for a more total, more radical war than we can even

         dream in the language of the avant-garde

 

we know a commercial promises to reduce plaque more

         effectively in this same tone

 

but sometimes we exceed even our own expectations to

          surprise even ourselves

 

something encloses the impossible in a fable

 

an unreal world called real because it is so heavily metaphoric

 

we can't keep our fingers of connection out of it

 

 

 

it is a ride in the country, the car crowded with children

                                                   [each child represents a different

                                                              ethnicity of [name of nation]

 

it is a moment of standing with light resonating around [major

          historical figure

 

it is a guiding of the child towards the right path

 

it is a picnic in a field, the spread is bountiful

[the spread of [name of nation] is represented through the

          arrangement of food on the checkered tablecloth

 

it is [name of major historical figure]'s Art Collection:

           figure after figure

           each carries spears, lunges, draws the arm back to pull

                   tight the bow

 

a ruined plaza has a [gendered human form] at its en

        trance

 

a [generic child] draws a sword under the guidance of

[generic possessive pronoun] [honorific denoting repro-

ductive role]

 

a [generic human form] raises [generic pronoun] arms and

four horses turn away

 

another plays a lute

 

an eagle holds a symbol

 

fake [name of nation used as an adjective] heads

 

 

 

while the end of lunacy in art was explicit in [name of major

         historical figure]'s rhetoric

 

while when nation turns to art, art loses its divergence

 

while the [generic human figures] come back from war, their

         legs in fog

 

while a [generic human figure] sculpts, small against the

          expanse of marble, giving into the monumental human

          form that symbolizes eugenic possibilities

 

while another [generic human figure] pedantically draws

          postcards of village centers, operas, mountain vistas

 

while overwhelmed by an opera [name of major historical 

          figure] plans genocide

 

                                                    III

 

we know we respond resistantly as faked children's books of

         realist adventure tales have turned into military instruc-

         tion manuals

 

 

or [name of major historical figure] hails a cab, [generic

          possessive human pronoun] hand raised here, beckoning

          as the red flag with [name of fast food chain] waves

          behind [generic human pronoun] and the red star on top  

          of the [name of cultural landmark in major city] twinkles.

 

 

many people raise their hands for different purposes all day

         long

 

 

we are always waiting for our cab to come

 

 

 

the question here is the same as that of a relationship

where does art define our vocabulary?

 

the margin declares

 

 

[it is impossible to speak about something

 

 

it is only possible to speak beside it

                                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                          [a film with a voice-over of nonsense

 

to act in the unsecular forbidden margins [claims a certain

         privilege]

 

 

 

                         [generic human pronoun] cast a colonizing eye

 

 

a scripture of space / a place where

 

 

 

 

a [generic human form] twists in space

                                                               [follow this body]

 

getting you to recognize yourself in [generic possessive

           pronoun] work

 

 

 

                                                                                    [is kidnapping]

 

in the space of this question some emigrate or lapse into total

         silence

 

 

 

some co-opt this language and paint a series of meticulous and 

          beautifully colored monumental images of people impris-

          oned and alone at the edge of a tedious despair

 

 

 

some [refigure [refuse] respond] call out for an end

 

 

 

rewritten, the goal of the artist is to prevent reality in a true and

            concrete manner

 

 

                                                       IV

 

 

[generic human figure] claims I can get more information at

         home than by going to the war scene

 

 

 

what [generic pronoun] sees is [gendered naked bodies] in

          news photos—dead bodies, discarded bodies, junk

 

 

 

i  saw  this written on the bottom

 

 

 

                                                                                 [a way of testimony

 

 

the poverty of image among the people of [name of nation]

 

 

the continual increase in the amount of image a viewer can

          tolerate

 

                                                        [who went to [name of nation?

 

 

returning again and again to images of torture

 

covert activities depicted              [blown up

 

                                                                                   [to show power

 

                                                              details of photographs

                                                              or Xerox degradations

                                                              of photos on Duraclear

                                                              hang loose are

                                                              vulnerable and

                                                              fragmentary and

                                                              images are seen

                                                              through images and/or

                                                              viewers

 

 

 

[call this]

                the fate of Madame Bovery, the fate of Anna Karenina

 

A dog with a [generic human face] has slogans coming out 

          of its mouth as angels hold its head back suckle at its

          tits

 

 

 

taped to a [gendered hand, adorned with ring] is a photo-

         graph of [gendered naked torso], gagged

 

 

 

[generic human figure] infects computerized images with

           digitized viruses and then transfers them to canvas with

           a robotic device

 

 

 

 

                                                   [possible responses to what is seen

 

in [name of nation] at another time another set of reponses:

 

 

 

a [sexual category withheld] cuts hair and cameras circle

          around and [generic human pronoun] is dragged out of

          the room

 

 

 

another [generic human figure] says passionately we express

          ourselves in a language of regulations. Symbols and

          numbers best convey our ideas

 

 

 

another [generic human figure] makes an enormous painting

           of a massacre victim, mutilated and bloody, and hangs it

           by night on a pedestrian bridge

 

 

 

what a nation gives us is the image in [name of major weekly

          news source] of the [generic human figure] standing

          before the tanks with white flag

 

 

[generic pronoun] painted on houses, streets, stones, trees

 

 

[generic pronoun] covered [name of island] with strange marks

         in chalk, oil paint, and dye

 

 

[generic pronoun] wished to reduce writing to the zero level

         where it is without meaning. When culture invades

         private life on a large scale [generic pronoun] said the

         individual cannot escape being raped

 

 

another [generic noun] made a font that was scratched into

         paper by a knife

 

 

this font made each letter into a single scratch

 

 

[generic pronoun] scratched the other [generic pronoun]'s

         statement on rape into a banner and hung it outside

 

 

                                                       [my zero-level writing

                                                       [generic pronoun] said

                                                                           protest rape

                                                       [generic pronoun] said

                                                          my zero-level writing

                                                       [generic pronoun]  said

                                                       dangerous cultural rape

                                                       [generic pronoun]  said

                                                           my zero-level writing

                                                           my zero-level writing

 

 

                                                     V

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a voice stutters in the background of our waking mind

 

 

 

 

[generic possessive pronoun] stutter is our stutter

 

 

 

 

or it is the way we define our difference?

 

 

 

 

                                                                                  stutter is nation

 

 

beneath an image of human figures the words [you have

          nothing to lose but your chains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                           at times two voices talk to one another

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                             [generic human] faces [tired]

 

 

we know we are all constructed

 

 

when it comes down to it we don't believe it

 

 

the social always holds us back

 

 

while the ways that we encounter relation are various

 

 

we remain

 

 

searching [searching

 

 

we question, respond

 

 

 

                                                              [deny we [move forward

Juliana Spahr - Transitory, Momentary

The Brent geese fly in long low wavering lines on their migrations. They start in western Europe, fatten in Iceland, then fly over the Greenland ice cap to Canada. They sometimes breed on the Arctic coasts of central and western Siberia and winter in western Europe, some in England, the rest in Germany and France. What I have to offer here is nothing revolutionary. They learn the map from their parents, or through culture rather than through genetics. It is just an observation, a small observation that sometimes art can hold the oil wars and all that they mean and might yet mean within. Just as sometimes there are seven stanzas in a song. And just as sometimes there is a refrain between each stanza. And just as often this sort of song tells a certain sort of story, one about having something and then losing it. Just as sometimes the refrain of a song is just one word said four times. Just as sometimes the word is huge, sometimes coming from a machine and yet hitting in the heart; uplifting and ironic and big enough to hold all these things in its four syllables. Just as some- times, often even, it contradicts, and thus works with, the stanzas. Just as the police clear out yet another public space and yet another camera follows along behind. Just as the stream has no narration, only ambient noise. And the police move slowly, methodically in a line as if they are a many-legged machine. They know what they are doing. It is their third time clearing the park and they will clear it many more times and then they will win and a building will be built where there once was the park. In this song, as is true of many songs, it is unclear why the singer has lost something, maybe someone. In this time, the time of the oil wars, there are many reasons that singers give for being so lost. Often they are lost because of love. Sometimes they are lost because of drugs. Sometimes they have lost their country and in their heart it feels as if they have lost something big. And then sometimes they are lost just because they are in Bakersfield. Really though they are lost because in this time song holds loss. And this time is a time of loss. The police know, as they move through the park yet one more time, that they will win and a building will be built on the space. But right now, the building is not there. All that is there are the police and debris and the police deal with the debris. They push over book-shelves, open up boxes and look inside, tear into tents, awkwardly, the poles springing. They are only there to see if any humans remain. Tomorrow the bulldozers will push the debris into big piles and load it into trucks. The police wear white helmets and short sleeves under their kevlar vests. For many years the Brent geese ate eelgrass, but once the eelgrass was gone to the wasting disease and the estuaries filled, they moved inland to agricultural lands and began eating grasses and winter-sown cereals. The Brent geese are social, adaptable. They fly around together, learning from each other, even as these groups are often unstable, changing from season to season. Songs in their most popular versions tend to be epiphanic, gorgeous with swelling chord changes, full of lament too. And this song, like many, expresses the desire to be near someone who is now lost. It travels as something layered, infiltrated, unconfused with its refusals to make a simple sense. I want to give you this song sung in a bar in Oakland one night during the ongoing oil wars. The singer had clearly been lost once, but they sang as someone who eventually got in the car and drove out of Bakersfield, perhaps early in the morning, the sun just starting to rise, or perhaps later after sun-up, the light washing out everything in Bakersfield as the sun is wont to do there. Eventually they arrived to sing this song. This might have taken them many years. There was nothing that implied that the lostness was recent. But the lostness, it was clear, was huge and had been experienced fully by them. It probably doesn't matter where the sun was that day in Bakersfield when they got in the car. It probably just matters that there is a sun, still, and they got in the car and drove, drove through the oil fields with their wells pumping out amber colored oils and their refineries with tall towers that heat the oil so as to sort its various viscosities, and drove through the black cloud that is the slow constant burn of the oil wars. Then at some point they were in Oakland. The oil near Bakersfield is heavy but it often benchmarks against the Brent blend. Brent blend is a light crude oil, though not as light as West Texas Intermediate. It contains approximately 0.37% of sulphur, classifying it as sweet crude, yet not as sweet as West Texas Intermediate. When the park is cleared and the building is built, it will headquarter an oil company. When this oil company named their oil fields off the coast of Scotland, they choose the names of water birds in alphabetical order: Auk, Brent, Cormorant, Dunlin, Eider, Fulmar, and so on. Brent is also an acronym for the Jurassic Brent formation that makes up the Brent oilfield, for Broom, Rannoch, Etive, Ness, and Tarbert. About two thirds of oil is benchmarked against what is called the Brent Crude Oil Spot price. Petroleum suppliers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East often price their oil according to Brent Crude's value on the Interconti- nential Exchange if it is being sold to the West. The Brent Crude Oil Spot price is set in dollars, maintained by force, endlessly manipulated by commodity futures markets. The refrain is the moment when the singer makes it clear that they understand something about what is being lost. It was obvious they had lost their country, it being taken over by bankers and all. They had clearly been rejected. Loved too much and gotten too little of it back in return, many times. But none of this matters, it was obvious, in comparison to what is now being lost for that night even though the song is about a minor loss, about the loss of tongue on clit or cock, the singer seemed to understand s0mething about the other things that are lost. While a formation of police clear the far side of the park of the debris of its occupation, another forma- tion of police on the other side shoot the new gasses, the ones we do not yet know by name, into another part of the park where people are now clustered. This camera has sound and every few seconds there is a pop. It is unevenly steady. The song is just about two people who are not near each other, who have probably chosen not to be near each other any more. The song reflects and refracts the oil in ways both relevant and trivial in how it tells about what happens when one lets love go, when one gives up the tongue. It might be that only through the minor we can feel enormity. It might be that there is nothing to epiphany if it does not hint at the moment of sweaty relation larger than the intimate. For what is epiphanic song if it doesn't spill out and over the many that are pulled from intimacies by oil's circulations? The truckers, the sailors and deckhands, the assembly line workers, those who maintain the pipelines, those who drive support in the caravans that escort the tankers, the fertilizers, the thousands of interlocking plastic parts, the workers who move two hundred miles and live in a dorm near a factory, alone, those on the ships who spend fifty weeks circulating with the oil unable to talk to each other because of no shared language and so are left only with two weeks in each year where they can experience the tongue in meaningful conversation. A life that is only circulations. Before the police come, before the building, in the middle of one night, a group of people form a line leading to the entrance of the park. Or several groups form several lines, all leading to the entrance. Some wear medical masks. Some wear glasses too. All pass bricks, one by one, down the line so as to make a pile. They are silent for the most part, silent enough that it is possible to hear the bricks make a clink as they fall. The pile gets bigger and bigger. It is waist high. Then chest high. Some get out of the line and climb on the pile, hold both their hands in the air because they know now is the transitory, momentary triumph and it should be felt. Others continue passing brick after brick, from one hand to another hand, arms extended, torsos at moments also going back and forth with the bricks. When they run out of bricks, the pile is topped with fencing. Then they gather behind it, waiting. Back there, some- one might possibly be singing to a child, singing the epiphanic song that alludes to losing the moment of tongue on clit or cock over and over because the child cannot be comforted, because the singer knows only loss. The room will be dark. The light will be on in the hall. There will be shadows, in other words. And the singer will know about these shadows at this moment and know they had agreed to be with shadows when they had the child. They had gambled in a sense on a question of sustaining. They had agreed to exist from now on with a shadow. A shadow of love and a shadow of the burning of the oil fields that has already happened and is yet to come and yet must come and a million other shadows that might possibly disappear in the light at that moment.