As it is, and: Capitulation
As it is
As it is for all humans, she said, and it was undeniably true, many other humans interacted with them. The inky sky swells to incorporate us, accommodating even our most baroque market forces. The concave sky recedes, diminishing returns, staunch support via tourniquet and assembly line. As if, she claimed, totally within reason, they became infected with something that quietly added genetic material to all parts of their body as it slowly mutated all of their cells into some other shape. Suspension of disbelief. Bridges, rails, birds, trees damaged by natural forces. The story we were about to relate when something else happened. Suspension of belief. Floating colonies, lost hives, transcontinental cargo systems, connective tissues ripped from their anchoring bone or stone. The comment we failed to make while we had the chance. The moment, as moments will, passed. They recognized, she in turn noted, and rightfully so, the specificity of their thoughts and this helped them to understand that their thoughts were of this time, this moment. And how in the history of the human, they were short-term and historically and politically specific thoughts. Pretty was as pretty did, we might have said under other circumstances. But circumstances were what they were so instead we bombed the fuck out of them. When they wrote, she wrote [End Page 163] with incontrovertible accuracy, they wrote as war machine. When they wrote, they wrote as ideological state apparatus. When they wrote, they wrote as military-industrial complex. The list went on and on. Something else might include raindrops falling up in a flurrying motion, an abandoned radio station, the fact that most things are by the side of the road already or end up there, falling in love or falling out of love, interacting with humans in a crisp or cloudy or pollinated way, interacting with humans in a business sort of way with specific interactive intent that may or may not be satisfied, interacting with humans in an animal way which, it can be definitively argued, is a human way. Because what they really wanted, she indicated with utterly justified zeal, was constantly to be saying they were complicit with all sorts of things, even things that happened without their consent but happened nonetheless and continued to happen also without their consent. Something else might include the tone of voice one minimum wage worker uses to address another, the posture a person assumes as they step up to the counter, the exact change deposited in a machine dispensing plastic cards used only once to transit the city at medium-high speeds, the misplaced apostrophe that makes us possess when we want to contract and vice versa, the store called “little finger” selling something indiscernible to an undesiring clientele. Something else might include insects having multiple legs, waving and quavery, pests against the passiflora vine polka dotted yet not pleasing, rather alarming, a claim to be poison- free which points to poisons nearly everywhere else. Something else might be ubiquitously available for free, but we just don’t see it. Something else yet again might comprise an inverted pyramid scheme, a spilled funnel, a tunnel which dead ends into a small house on the site of a former mine, a non-dynamic field of statistical observation punctuated by the unlikely sizzling sound of crickets on a heavily trafficked avenue, actuated by a false-bottomed beginning with its lid propped open. They wrote for themselves, she pointed out quite correctly, because they wrote to figure out things that they could not figure out otherwise, things they could not figure out just by thinking. They needed writing. They needed [End Page 164] poetry because it reshaped their mind, because it resorted things in different, sometimes beautiful, sometimes troubling patterns. They especially needed poetry to think with others. But is not need relative? There are lots of reasons this might not matter. The shift in tone or timbre of the air as it sweeps up our skirt in late-summer tangles, the not-blue of blueberries, the not-blue of blood, an illness with sudden onset and no cure, an illness with gradual onset and no cure. All we’re left with is post-game analysis, over which we pore minutely. All we’re left with is the list of things we didn’t do, the things we did disappearing immediately upon their doing or even quicker, during. After the conversation ended with an unintentional yet soon-to-be-implemented untruth, after the bus passed in a sneeze of diesel, after we were cited for a routine traffic violation, after we performed the tasks expected of us with passable adequacy, after we tried and failed to erase or at least smudge the edges of our carbon footprint, after we bombed the fuck out of them, we bombed the fuck out of the crater that was where they once had been or might have been. Their brain, she could not help mentioning, and why should it be helped, refused to understand how violence had made things different. How it redrew maps and changed their vocabulary. How it changed their aesthetics and morals and emotions. It refused to understand why violence led to new violence and not to a rejection of violence. The lecture took place in a windowless basement auditorium atop a hill frequented by drug users, people making out, frisbee players, dogs, and picnickers eating prickly pear, seeded grapes, stone fruit, seemingly past [End Page 165] their prime in the unnaturally long growing season. “Architecture is getting bigger and better while everything else is getting worse,” intoned the honoree. “And on that melancholy note . . .” [End Page 166]
Turf is to be surveyed. Tufts. Nests made of feathers. Engineering and architecture frustrate conjecture or concentrate ballast along manicured edges. Delineations concentrate. Valves. At its flanks the convoy opens like a hatch revealing columns within columns: mammalian cylinders. Nominal bodies. Ballast. A person has no surveillance device, nor can they be certain to possess any particular talents where clairvoyance is concerned. Here is a partial day’s catalogue: one millipede, precise number of legs unverified, two banana slugs hardly moving and another slender and very bright in its immobile chartreuse extension under the clarified water no more opaque for its constancy of movement, two dead birds and another heaving for breath on the cement floor, purportedly swallows prior to recognizably characteristic markings but without recognition or character what is the body but a nation with no flag, an approximate dozen newts, which as far as I know make no sound, small periwinkle butterflies too numerous to count, possibly not even butterflies properly speaking, dozens of live trees and dozens more fallen, hollowed, home to fuzzier fungal forms of green or brown mutation, slender bugs by the grey thousands that cloud out from loose bark and whirr like jets, contracting like bellows after an initial foray of dispersal, after the blast. While edges manicure, interiors implode, as if now were a zero behind which growth might occur negatively.
In the naturalized world, the domino effect outpaces the counterweight. A person might cross a bridge weighted contrapuntally with a casted cement oblong and trust that it will hold. In smoldering conditions, the sunrise is semi- permanent. You could pathologize the repetition, call it futile, but if you considered the aesthetics of repetition as such, you might actually begin to embrace eternal recapitulation. The effects of motion on stasis are indeed strange. Repetitive motion erodes and reinforces, confirming that opposites cohabitate, as do the twin impulses of excavation and nesting. [End Page 167]
The fully automated machine for classified visual cognition with enhanced rendering and filing functions needs no input other than what a person offers when they are looking the other way, its mechanical eye tentacling at the end of its mechanized arm. A person cannot be certain these serrating cirrocumulus insects are aware of them as anything other than a jostle. They do not hover. Do not hone. They bore, which is a form of honing. They focus and rivulet, distill and explode. Fenceposts. Invisibly audible or soundlessly protruding against the unsuspecting retina. Small hollows in tall grasses indicate the presence of bodies. You could pathologize the repetition, call it futile, but if you considered the aesthetics of repetition as such, you might actually begin to embrace eternal recapitulation. The stenographer’s art is repetition imploded. Circumference honing in or concentrated concentrically as if sound waves or natural light could be lassoed. Fogs, oceans, and duties arrive in multiples. More so, these days, duties, when they are tours of duty deployed to subdue a mannequined democracy that unravels from one end as it is jammed into position on the other. Postulations cloud distinction such that the horizon becomes an additive process bubbling with inflationary bulges, which is why vision cannot be trusted without corroborating evidence, manufactured to the specified specifications by non-uniformed staff trained extensively in penmanship and non-mechanical reproduction strategies. We reproduce repeatedly, creating more of the same, surveying what is available to be surveyed and remote accessing the rest through virtual means.
Is it the crows’ fault that they are sickly and rasp against both ear and eye as they flap past the unerring tinny whir of the electrical transformers planted in concrete cylinders at the edge of the cemented river? You think not. You think that waning is quicker than waxing, generally speaking, when it comes to light or to love, which it generally does, then glances off again toward other tilts and concerns. Possible bodies include deer, fawn, bunny, tractor, trench, stealth, zeal, rivet, solitude, and getaway car. Owl or swallow. Some bodies switch tactics mid-stream. Some [End Page 168] rivulet. It is not clear, from this vantage point, how it is that the waterstriders cast shadow beyond the confines of their extremities. It is not clear whether a person could say that all bodies are extremities, or whether the core of a thing bored to absolute zero is an epicenter that will simply erase with the force or futility of the blast. [End Page 169]
The unsuspecting retina doesn’t suspect and thus is the ideal instrument for factuality. Attribution usurps and surveillance informs or classifies. Here is a partial day’s catalogue: a field at the far side of which grasses percolate with no further recourse but to shimmer fondly in the wind if and when it picks up, a hill which could reasonably be termed a “golden rolling hill” or a “turret detached from its ruling monarchy” in thick fog nearly complete in its obliteration, two quail, one lizard, various iterations of hawk, snakes with and without racing stripes, with and without a propensity to dig, though how a reptile with no discernible protuberances—a single muscular digit, really—manages to bore, hammer or erode sufficiently to create a habitable concavity is beyond a person. It is as if the mere fact of zeroing in on a target legitimizes the fact itself, so the target, once identified as such, even posthumously, becomes a target non-negotiably, irrevocable like the view in a scope, clearly outlined, clearly indicated, clearly designed and thus clearly defined. The convoy flows liquidly around its designated target, incorporating it amoebically, monopolizing it, obliterating it yet becoming it, reiterating it carcinogenically so that soon the most flamboyant target has reproduced as the very aims of the mission itself, indistinguishable from it, the convoy conveying nothing more than its murderous availability to be wounded, maimed, or murdered.
A person can attest that the sky and the sea are one and the same, though not from all angles. You might say it is as if there is no ocean. Or as if there is only ocean. You might say we’ve been here before. What good is testimony if even the gentlest boundary won’t stand still for erasure? As if standing still were the question. As if erasure were a choice. A person might seek to catalogue choices but that injects a certain deflation into the otherwise puffy process of ranking. A person might rivet, but a person might be wrong. What settles is silt, in this case made of bone dust, classroom chalk, paper shredded to protect the identities of those who have already been given a number. You could pathologize the repetition, call it futile, but if you considered the aesthetics of repetition as such, you [End Page 170] might actually begin to embrace eternal recapitulation. You could lodge a complaint, but where false hierarchies prevail, bureaucracy incorporates yeastily, administrating prevention and predetermining the succession of ascent, if you want to consider instructional prediction as a substitute for hot air balloons with their sluggishly graceful swaggering lift-off and halting, hesitant, demure staying power. And where real hierarchies prevail, it’s even worse. [End Page 171]
Jen Hofer is a Los Angeles-based poet, translator, social justice interpreter, teacher, knitter, book-maker, public letter-writer, urban cyclist, and co-founder of the language justice and language experimentation collaborative Antena and the local language justice advocacy collective Antena Los Ángeles. She publishes poems, translations, and visual-textual works with numerous small presses, including Action Books, Atelos, belladonna, Counterpath Press, Kenning Editions, Litmus Press, LRL Textile Editions, NewLights Press, Ugly Duckling Presse, Writ Large Press, and in various DIY/DIT incarnations. She teaches poetics, translation and multilingual writing, and DIY/DIT bookmaking, is part of the organizing collective for the decolonial pedagogical project at land’s edge, and does cross-language work supporting community groups in creating effective bilingual and multilingual spaces. www.antenaantena.org. www.antenalosangeles.org. firstname.lastname@example.org.