:: Article

Three poems

By Andrei Codrescu.


yelping for the proletariat
it must be the 30s
that’s Walker Evans
and that’s Diego in Detroit
everybody on the train is reading
a USSR travel-book

that was in the 20th century
it’s 2010 now the bourgeoisie can only achieve contentment
through the unhapiness of artists who can wreck that contentment
through ecstasy

suffering artists are promoted to the expense of ecstatics (and mystics!)
we are at the ceremony but pretend to be elsewhere

which is what the Tretyakov galleries meant to say all along

class, analyze the 20th century in the following keys:
1. Freud
2. Jung
3. Marx
4. Fashion
5. The Kabbala
6. The news
7. Art
8. Advertising
9. The future
10. The assignment

I would rather be in you than with you
but here we are artists and analysts all mixed up
like parts of the gun each one of you has been assigned
at the beginning of your (social) class

pay attention: this is the clip
every thought symmetry
what sounds
what you hear
each bullet is “you”

the imperative is to think in piano keys
that are actually bullets

this man with the shovel is a digger
I found him on the vacant lot as I was looking
for an appropriate something to bring to show-and-tell
he is digging always digging
when I found him he had just finished digging
a new rift
in american education
a trench
and now, class, he will dig something for you
he’ll find the interstices
in the trenches
he himself is digging
that’s where the candy is hidden
(in your machine-guns)

the earth might collapse on him
or it might get hilly
but whatever happens don’t move a muscle
just keep breaking down and putting back together
your gun your clip your life your ambitions

this terrain is made for you and me
even if it looks like belgium at first

it’s both narrative and complicated
but it moves forward
that much I can tell you

just load your gadgets
and note how fast he digs your grave
fear of heights doesn’t matter
when you’re in this deep


these giants
behind the scenes at night
they are working for you
even when they look like they are making money
for someone else
(they do)

the only thing that hurts these giants is the umbilical cords
they are attached with
to you
that one just dangling with a puddle on the end
is the gulf of mexico
it used to be rich

all you need is a nice pair of scissors
than it will be esthetic
you won’t even know it was there
like a shrimp in reduction sauce

wind air water fire when drafted say ok
then they attach themselves
to you
with new umbilicums
yummy it feels yummy

migratory birds know
where to go
something outside of them tells them
where to go
something inside them says yes
and then it’s off to mexico
but never again to the gulf of mexico

that’s voided pedagogy
dead verbs nouned
derivative was once to derive
and so the body was derived from the need to feed
and the puddle dried up

adjectives too had a hard time
but everything is fast now
don’t bet on language
to be on your side
it’s not
not because it’s venal
but because it’s in constant use

if we gave our language a break for let’s say a century
and kept quiet with our needs at a minimum
we might turn into finer animals horses let’s say

evolution used to work that way
now volition does

teacher teacher what does my soul look like?
a duck

I hate ducks
I like birds
I hate ducks
will they make a difference to my grade?

no but you’re now in charge of bodies in area 51

they are morphing

how does language shape physiognomy?
why do the french look french?
do the people of the 20th century look different?
do plumbers?
do ideas?
what makes them look like they do?

tolerance is important

anybody who’s ever made a fire knows why synergy’s important
the hard thing to know is when there is too much of it

people your actions are ridiculous
the consequences tragic
where is the gulf of mexico

pinata in a buffet
see last will and testament
by caligula jr
innocence is hard look at me
all these years

whose dream are we
our own
which is the next question

why are most things round?
and the next:
we ever
be safe
from the
interior monologue?

and the next:

does anyone know how to get lost anymore?

and the one after:

what disarms the reader?

what weapon must he be relieved of?

there will be always the exact same amount of god
vomit is the price of liberty
I for instance feign amnesia during the daytime
to hide from my own shadow


the frequency of portraits in post-mortem inventories
in the 17th to the 18th century grows from 18 to 28 percent
while the percentage of religious portraits falls from 29 to 12 percent

George Vigarello

way too human too fast way too boring too quick
the wrong humans at that
humans that tick like clocks
the saints were in no hurry

nor the poor

every time a slum is being abolished
peoples’ right to get fucked up
is abridged
more immortality ground up like beef

display patties in square windows

no streets to perform on
no place to squat for a good shell game

OTB poetry parlor where are you?

poetry that good superstition
guessing where the third pea hides
anybody can play

you can’t be a bit superstitious
and a bit rational
a little in a book and a little outside

but you can keep betting
and never guessing

and when they explain everything on tv
Japanese woman arrested for killing virtual husband
on the crawl that used to be the street

you walk three frustrated miles
meeting no one you know no one who knows you
you could swear it’s the same place where you had
hundreds of friends and acquintances
the buildings haven’t moved
you never find out where the party is

The gaze doesn’t reveal anything
it places us instantly in a different situation

(Victor Brauner)

no point in looking for it
it’s not the past or the wrong city
it’s your transparent body

Sola la muerte es fuerte


Andrei Codrescu was born in Sibiu, Romania, and emigrated to the United States in 1966 at the age of nineteen. His first poetry book in English License to Carry a Gun won the Big Table Poetry award in 1970. In 1983 he founded Exquisite Corpse: a Journal of Books & Ideas. From 1984 until his retirement in 2009 he taught Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University (LSU) where he was MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English. He has been a regular commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered since 1983. Codrescu has received a Peabody Award for writing and starring in the film Road Scholar. (1991). In 1989 he returned to his native Romania to cover the fall of the Ceausescu regime for National Public Radio (NPR) and ABC News, and wrote The Hole in the Flag: an Exile’s Story of Return and Revolution. He has reported from Cuba and Martinique, and is the winner of several Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism. He is the author of over forty books of poetry, novels, and essays. His most recent books are: whatever gets you through the night: a story of sheherezade and the arabian entertainments (2011), The Poetry Lesson (2010) and The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess, (2009) all published by Princeton University Press.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, April 8th, 2012.