Thursday, January 30, 2020

Meditation 19


On the Friday the Republic dies, there will be a sale on our words. They're more valuable to us as empty containers than as pith. The store that sells us on organizing will stack them at the windows, inviting us to use “democracy” to store our beans, “due process” to hold our rough drafts. My students find the sonnets uninteresting, incomprehensible. Yes, there's a speaker in the poems, and yes, he's hectoring a friend. He wants his friend to “breed.” He wants his friend to last forever, as a collection of words. But we’ll sell those, too, like the banana taped to a wall that sold for $250,000 before someone walked up and ate it. The banana gives us mental energy; I may be remembering my former students’ names because I ate one this morning. It’s useful, and to suggest otherwise is a joke. An expensive one. They shake their heads at the thought. Is it a joke on intrinsic value, on art’s rot, on the usefulness of duct tape, or do we take it at its word: “banana”? I’d tape mine to a wall if I could, then take your good money to dispatch it. If I no longer own the word “idealism,” I cannot be disappointed when it proves useful in a service economy. The word “hoard” explains a lot; so does the border wall that falls in a stiff wind. One field has to do with economies of love, the other its sickness. The best words aren't just empty; they're translucent in the way plastic is, admitting light while blocking clarity. The former dive instructor said there were days she surfaced into fields of plastic. I urged her to start there; that’s an image we can hold onto. Beneath the ground-cover this morning, I saw a yellow toy smile at me. I took its picture.

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