Two Poems by Ted Dodson

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.

[Toronto, 7/5/18]

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.

[Upstate, 2/2/19]

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.