Yesterday afternoon a friend and I had a despair-inducing conversation about the current economic crisis, its causes, the decline of late-capitalism, etc. Toward the end of our conversation, we spent a few minutes trying to figure out what crops we might be able to grow in my tiny backyard as food and potential currency for the ensuing barter economy. Our discussion ended in crippled stasis.
Usually I'm able to find some solace in poetry, and if not solace then a kind of kinship with the voices addressing me, and this allows me to access the world and reinterpret it anew. Not always in Romantic ways. In fact, usually never in that way. So, I've been thinking about who might be that poet for this moment in which we're all feeling not the pinch, but the crushing fist of the free-market brought down with centuries of force upon the lower-middle class .
One poet I turn to most often when I need to be confronted with the reality of my life is T.R. Hummer. Here are two poems from his most recent collection, The Infinity Sessions. I've also posted links at the bottom to other Hummer poems I've posted at Against Oblivion.
After the explosion, no one knew what to do
For the boy who'd stood closest to the abandoned leather briefcase.
By some miracle, he was the only one injured. It erupted
In an incense of sulfur and nails as he made his way
To steal it. Holiness has an aura, everyone knows that,
But why would terrorists bother to murder a thief?
The ethics of this question paralyzed everyone in sight
While the boy, unable to breathe, watched God wandering
The station in a business suit, asking occasional strangers
Have you seen my briefcase? There was something urgent in it.
Zero balance. Double entry. Every accounting method
Failed. There could be no question of error or ignorance--
His omniscience was intact. But still the recalcitrant numbers,
False sums, disagreement. And the office needed cleaning.
So many outdated records, reports, bits of paper, dust.
It was exhausting to think about. He'd just give up
And go home, if he had one. But even to look out the window,
Where clouds of dark matter accrued and disbursed
And spiral nebulae wobbled unreliably, panicked him.
This was not the job he'd signed on for. There were people
Waiting for results, for the traffic light to change, the cell to divide,
The wounds to numb, the dead to file their forms.
from The Infinity Sessions, LSU Press, 2005.
Links to other T.R. Hummer poems posted at Against Oblivion:
"Useless Virtues" from Useless Virtues, LSU Press, 2001.
"Olive Bread" from Useless Virtues.
"The End of History" from Useless Virtues.
"Blue Alexandrine" from Walt Whitman in Hell, LSU Press, 1996.