To have come this far
only to be reduced to dew
heroically is a fitting though limp
insurrection disguising what looked
to be a better plan. Once
I witnessed a clear vision
and was full envy. But who would feel
otherwise? The affect of lecture takes
art when no one is listening
and this is by necessity. Let's talk
materials. Being no longer required
to ratify decency as the central
non-combustible tenet of worldly affairs
courage snapped into place with myth
and fiction. Within this index
some of us sit with an invited guest
who gifts us a parcel
of land tattooed in a far national
corner, a lip too distant for us
to ever reach, and this was by design.
I took off my clothes
so I could see my ass
see if the gym gave me any
classicism but without a mirror
I'm more or less intractable
in relation to my own body's
semiotics. I just hope a man
or woman upon finding me
wiped naked across a distant shore
having mysteriously vanished
on an ill-fated vacation
at least say what a waste
then repost something of mine
and vaguely enshrine my likeness
as a minor cultural reference
point. That could be too much
to ask, though. Instead, I have
an interview with the panopticon.
It sees me and all I see
is a generic avatar, a little ghost
or an octopus emoji. Do I
have any interest in wearing
a RompHim? The official future
outfit for stormtroopers, partying with
Corona Light and a sponsored
photoshoot? A bottle of rosé
floats in the pool, manufactured
for buoyancy. Solidarity is opted-in
for history and all I have to show for it
is this scam, me and everyone
I know. Do the drugs even work?
I've been out of this world for long enough
to see there are more empty rooms
empty for the sake of their emptiness
than those where I'm waiting around
for a phone to ding. I’ll try again
when the candidates have turned
state witness and gone
under the protective guise
of a California saffron blaze
safe from the rough quenching
of gathered foams and spume
lathered from chlorinated shores
that appear from the air as winsome
sapphire pits. I adjust my privacy settings
to include the walls of my apartment
with the curtains drawn, the sun
outside, and the witnesses
in deep cover, a gratifying effort
to collectivize as the eye
of Sauron, whose power thirst
was only a front for his voyeurism
watching Frodo and Sam bareback
on the side of the Misty Mountains
pretending he didn't see so he'd
never have to stop watching.
Destroyed by my lust for hobbit ass
would be a good title for Sauron's biopic
or maybe this poem, too. O'Hara wrote about
not having to leave the city to enjoy greenery
but also of the pleasant cold of a hilltop
upstate and driving up the west side highway
presumably. I'm amazed with the ways
in which one's perspective translates to
desire depending on the direction of approach
or the speed of arrival or the voluntary retreat
of oneself to a solitary place even if it's just
the back seat of a small sedan.
Austerity measures itself against
your propinquity to yourself to
throwing one or both of you over
the side of a bridge with a view
of the burning tide gratifying
our aerodynamic contours.
How heavenly we could be if only
we had a world where we were.
Everything on the menu looked great
and I hope everyone made it out alive.
The global ambiance falters
carrying an unsteady tray of iced lattes.
Its aura is photographed drifting south.
I couldn't be more middle of the road
unless I wikipedia'd "Negative Capability"
which I did. Some decisions leave us
in the dark, but I've found company
there, waggish and ridiculous in what
is that? At least we were all accounted for
and on-task so the meeting could begin.
I tried keeping notes, but they just became
a nearby pencil and an empty book,
mere signifiers of what I could be doing,
which means for me what I am not doing
currently and for others what I might be
doing. We only contain two things really
and one of them has nothing to do with us at all.
It's like a bad movie that levies its critique
through a grotesque embodiment of what
it's seeking to skewer. Look, popular
cinema only has an interest in feminism
insofar as it can be used to sell violence to women.
I'll pay to see it but let's be clear that I was
an easy mark. A few friends post from outside
a detention facility. A crowd gathered
to demonstrate and condemn the state and the
attending warden's sociopathic lack of compassion.
The polar sun sets behind the concrete tower
in one image. The incarcerated are dying in Brooklyn
in the sentinel night. I am two hundred miles away
and only seeing the news the day after.
Ted Dodson is the author of “At the National Monument / Always Today” (Pioneer Works, 2016) and “Pop! in Spring” (Diez, 2013). He edits for BOMB and Futurepoem and is a former editor of The Poetry Project Newsletter.