SPRING GEORGIC Poem by Joshua Clover


Listen I have something to tell you and it's too simple to tell it simply so

1872 Dostoyevsky publishes Бесы
1913 Constance Garnett publishes first
English translation as The Possessed
thus precisely within the brackets
of the Great War and the Commune
"human character changed"

A library is more like a palace than it is like a bookstore
a bookstore is more
like a hotel
a hotel is only something like a library
but a great deal like a
department store
while the department store and the high palace are one

Around that time we were leaving
behind realism and with it the struggle
over the working day
once that catastrophe was confirmed
the fighting
shifted to the front of consciousness and
then we were finally modern

In the main hall of the century the décor was a jumble of americanoiserie

I have read a lot of very thick books
and come to believe only three things

One do not send your army into Afghanistan
the Hindu Kush will swallow them

Two no matter the circumstance
do not grant emergency powers to anyone

I promise to finish but first an interlude on the romance of the lost manuscript

The Passagen-werk and Theorie du speculation
were both left to languish
in the National Library in France
while everybody was having modernism
and then recovered in the Fifties
and each book invented a new capital
one for the 19th century
one for the future of finance
oh those banky boys
swanning through the age of arbitrage
like hookers through the dizzy atrium
of the Hotel Future Foretold
and in Sao Paulo there is a department store
without any doors at all
what thoughts I have of you tonight Fred Jameson!

We make our plans among ruins
of the geopolitical baroque
at some point
we were all working downtown in bookstores
what a luxury!
like Coca-Cola
for breakfast
we took turns sitting on the floor
behind the back counter
reading new arrivals
I remember The Andy Warhol Diaries
I remember
Lipstick Traces
I remember all those black pocketbooks from Semiotext(e)

Now everyone is superflux
but like credit we are
getting ahead of ourselves

Later it would be translated as The Devils or Demons
the Russian word Бесы
actually indicating spirits
which may possess a body uninvited
but are not
themselves possessed
it seemed like a crude mistake had been rectified

To say it is a new era is to say
it has discovered a new style of time
we do not
do this in language
first but in terrain we have not chosen
and do not yet
language meets us there and must be cajoled
into open air
by dangling the old forms
in their wrack and wreckage
this is the poetic thought

What true act would make every word in the dictionary political
Nina says
book-burning and that seems right
and it may be that a people can be
judged by how they answer this question
and this too is the poetic thought

"mysterious and extreme Romantic"
was in 1870 already dead
in a hotel
a few yards from where I stayed last week
the Chants of Maldoror
largely unknown
until it was discovered in a bookstore 1917
hey Paris
you are beautiful but you are terrible at keeping track of books
it had been
filed in the mathematics section
and finally this too is the poetic thought

Like credit the book is unable to be
in the same time with itself
its meanings
run ahead while it lingers on a shelf
or its meanings come
racing to catch up
to the instant when the book is found
in some poor agent's hand
and so
we are always naming
the wayward motion of things
en route to realizing
the fate the itinerary the defile the fortune
"to have had their time"

But is there not a kernel of truth
concealed within Garnett's error
if we speak
you and I of the dispossessed
free and doubly free
to haul their flesh to market
why would we not call those others
within whom moves the spirit of money
why would we not call these
the possessed
green and gold in the springtime
in March and in April and in May
especially in late March
seize the banks

Joshua Clover

Joshua Clover

Berkeley, California
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