Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The End And The Beginning

Jenny Holzer projected a piece on the walls of the library at GWU the other night. She projects truisms and found text on a massive scale on buildings, waves, and other public inanimate objects. She's one of my personal heroes and a tremedous inspiration to me to turn from visual art to writing. Most of my favorite artists are real assholes. You couldn't pay me to spend time in a car with Crumb or Joe Coleman, but Jenny Holzer was even more gracious and subdued than I hoped she would be.

Her piece the other night was comprised of found documents from the National Security Archive , internal communications amongst the CIA, Pentagon and other warmongers leading up to our involvement in Iraq. Interspersed amongst the document were poems by Wislawa Szymborska, beautiful, sad and brilliant poems that relate directly to the sad situation America has created for itself. These documents and poems were projected in letters about a story tall, crawling up the side of a library for six hours.

The following poems moved me deeply...

The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to tidy up.
Things won't pick
themselves up, after all.

Someone has to shove
the rubble to the roadsides
so the carts loaded with corpses
can get by.

Someone has to trudge
through sludge and ashes,
through the sofa springs,
the shards of glass,
the bloody rags.

Someone has to lug the post
to prop the wall,
someone has to glaze the window,
set the door in its frame.

No sound bites, no photo opportunities,
and it takes years.
All the cameras have gone
to other wars.

The bridges need to be rebuilt,
the railroad stations, too.
Shirtsleeves will be rolled
to shreds.

Someone, broom in hand,
still remembers how it was.
Someone else listens, nodding
his unshattered head.

But others are bound to be bustling nearby
who'll find all that
a little boring.

From time to time someone still must
dig up a rusted argument
from underneath a bush
and haul it off to the dump.

Those who knew
what this was all about
must make way for those
who know little.
And less than that.
And at last nothing less than nothing.

Someone has to lie there
in the grass that covers up
the causes and effects
with a cornstalk in his teeth,
gawking at clouds.

In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they're light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.


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