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By the time these events find their representation in my poems, my detainee has become a recessed shadow, a vague thread of residual light thrown upon a bell curve, sublimate of breath, a moist decay consumed by molecule and dust. His body remains the source of rumor where the real burden of labor has fallen away from the tendency of profit to rise and fall, the skin, all glassy surface and smooth economy. Clad in orange jumpsuit, iconic issue of the camp, no personal effects are noted on a would-be person whose clothing has been photographed and collected during autopsy. His limp prick, an appendage whose metallic lisp lies still on the table, bends, a tiny scar along my side, small enough to go unnoticed and thru which my body collects events the mind should remember but does not. He keeps me open to auto-affection. If only I could feel his hand caressing my thigh, grazing my cock, which begins to harden even now as it chafes against my denim, requiring ointments and powders, rerouting the offense to other sectors where it manifests as outbreak and mercurial stain. A smelly mold becomes my face, the skin an endless surface of pricing and shame. It’s only the feel of his beating heart I want as he backs me into a corner and takes me from behind. I open to him without condition and imagine his hand up my ass, gentle at the fundament forearm engulfed by cavity approaching the source of rhythm which, as Bob notes, is just past ‘the trap’ in the intestines, where nothing but a filmy tissue separates one’s hand from the beloved’s heart. During the whole of this episode, I can’t stop thinking about a generation of dying beef, a canal full of cows, abandoned by feed. But if this offers an accurate world view, and we can only know things insofar as we know their names, which subsume the things they make, negating each particular whatever makes me come then the meaning of this is nothing more than what I’ve said, a structure of feeling bearing what resemblance to real economy. This linguistic distraction creates only the appearance of a body, a constellation of bromides and documents wherein enteral-feeding goes unremarked, the link between knowledge and pain being no more than this fantasy, an idea of language as bad infinity, characteristic of liberal thinking whose colliding forces flesh & rule, use & exchange sink beneath my poem’s shiny surface and percolate, these bubbles that rise in my mouth as I read, all valorized gas, his body, my perjured commons.
Note on the Poem: “There are things / We live among ‘and to see them / Is to know ourselves.’” As part of an ongoing project that aims to be faithful to George Oppen’s proposition, I began transcribing the 2009 autopsy report of a Yemini man who had been held in US custody since December 2001, and detained at Guantanamo Bay. Among other things, I want to return transcription to its roots in somatic practice, to bring my body into contact with the documents of extraordinary rendition and state sponsored death. How will my writing metabolize this language in its failure to incorporate it?
Rob Halpern’s most recent book of poems and prose is Music for Porn (Nightboat Books). Common Place is forthcoming later this year from Ugly Duckling Presse. He lives in San Francisco and Ypsilanti, Michigan.
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