Out of Order
A rewriting of Curzio Malaparte’s ‘Satira Triste, III’
So many years of barely managed ‘transparency’
have turned our youth to lockdown.
When a day passes for striking what hits me
is how we can fall a bit in love with each other –
even if our arms are made not to meet, not
quite to meet – as we share lyrics from Nirvana
and Amiri Baraka on the picket lines
of our faculties. These days it’s a labour
just to breathe in the further particulars.
Loads of lobby space and facings advert attention
to thin altitude on the ground.
Against that we strive to thicken
the atmosphere with placards, graffiti, and poetry
so it might clot a kind of palm tree
that will descend to the right level of suspension
for casting us some sweet asylum.
We need this annunciation to look up to
so singing can come of thin air.
Exile home, pitching each city its oasis,
foaming pink with Venus.
We could call this palm tree a fresh Faculty
of Imagination. The tree must be judged to be
a way of acting on the present.
Any valuation of how far it can be taken
literally as future history is absurd.
This is an 1871 voice from our future speaking
with barricadences for breathing space.
Baraka was right: possibility is what moves us.
But they keep burying our capabilities in ‘capital ability’.
Belts of steel trees, fake eagles,
high horses, mime shafts, amortized iron
rivers, and businesses turning their surplus
hands to blatant towers of wanky blank light.
Our dearly saved final years already being spent
by our ‘leaders’ on branding and ‘Information Commons’
stuffed with flame-retarding sofas that declare:
‘VERY WELL ACTED BY YOU AND ME’.
They are feeding on us.
But read yr palms! says 1871 to us: your capacity
to work for all that also holds your capacity
not to work – and it all rests on you as a body.
You must keep putting yourselves out of order,
in suspension, so when you gather
your limbs and voices will rise freshly animated
for victory. Then, one day, you can rejoin, No!
we have eaten the high horses and fake eagles,
we have eaten the steel trees and mime shafts,
we have eaten the blatant towers and iron rivers,
we have eaten the Information fucking Commons
and all their sofas.
We have gnawed patiently on fat business hands
and the beards and receding balls of management
that tasted like veal and bedbugs.
We have eaten all the thin air.
Now they can have it back.
By our own palms we will build our ascendancy.
The rest is history.
Alex Houen is author of Ring Cycle (Eyewear, 2018), a poetry
chapbook Rouge States (Oystercatcher, 2014), and co-author (with Geoff
Gilbert) of another chapbook, Hold! West (Eyewear, 2016). He is
co-editor of the online poetry magazine Blackbox Manifold and teaches
modern literature in the Faculty of English, and Pembroke College,
University of Cambridge.