you gave birth, that you named your kid for a star, but here you are
with a beret, in charge of this cadre, and herding us into the basement
of our building to be registered, photographed, and given new jobs to
support the revolution.
It’s pretty funny and you look great. You just gave birth but
your skin is as supple and your eye is as bright when I saw you at that
party in February and you were six months pregnant, shiny hair, high
heels, aqua scarf that matched your eyes, skin-tight black jersey dress
hugging your “bump”. Now even though
you’re running the show in the basement I’m close
enough to you to see the wrinkles around your eyes and I wonder again
how old you are like I did at the party and whether it was hard for you
to get pregnant let alone get in charge of a cadre.
I think maybe you are going to get tired of me acting like friends with
you while you’re ordering everyone around. I’m not
sure yet what kind of revolution this is, nor is anybody else. Is this
the kind of revolution that likes or doesn’t like
intellectuals? And for how long? The only history I know is literary
history and that does not have a nice story to tell about intellectuals
and revolution. I wonder what to tell the guy with the computer when I
do get to the front of the line and he asks me what I can do, what I
can do for the revolution. That guy wears a trench coat and
non-descript collared shirt and khaki pants, he looks like an IT guy,
which is a kind of intellectual, I guess. He may actually be the guy
who ran the tech at our Obama office last summer. Having tech in the
Obama office gave us an invaluable, glamorous, indefatigable feeling,
as we were told and believed that John McCain had no tech in his
offices, even though our office was in Mishawaka, Indiana, a place that
in no respect could be described as glamorous but in fact was the nadir
of glamour, could strip a star of its glamour, just by sulking nearby.
The skills I can give the revolution include: writing, teaching,
editing, and performing. Is that going to work? Good enough? Should I
just say no skills, request training? I can’t even cook, I
can’t watch babies or keep my car clean. Will you blow my
cover? What answer do you want me to give?
The line is long and I’m at the end of it so I have a long
time to think about the right answer. Because I feel so collegial with
you I can’t keep my mouth shut even when you’re
addressing everyone else in the basement. “I’m just
excited about the career counseling!” I quip to the crowd, my
neighbors, who laugh nervously. You also kind of laugh, but not deeply.
How shallow or deep does it need to go in? Is laughter like a needle
that can inoculate you, make me safe for you to have around? Is this
that kind of revolution?
My mom is also here holding my baby, who’s not really a baby
anymore, she’s two. If my mom’s around I
don’t look after my baby too much. I wonder what my mom
thinks of my baby-minding skills. Well, I don’t have any
baby-minding skills. I have art-making skills. Last week I did an art
project with my baby instead of turning on the TV, which was like my
new year’s resolution for Spring. We dipped colored tissue in
glue and stuck it to a card. It looked pretty excellent, like a garden,
but when I put it on the wall she freaked out. ‘No
painting!’ she whined until I took it down. She rejected the
art we made together.
So where’s your baby? I want to ask you but I
don’t. I want to joke, having a baby is like a reverse
amputation, it’s like a graft, like a protrusion. When I was
a kid my brothers had these soldiers cast in some kind of metal,
probably lead, they had a seam down their legs where they were made in
the mold. That’s what having a kid is like. Not the seam, but
the soldier, made of toxic, and soldered to your mold.
Anywhere you turn they’re lined up on the sill of your line
of sight, with their sights on you, blocking your view.
I don’t say this because it’s not strictly true, I
don’t see your baby anywhere, and I can only see my baby out
of the corner of my eye in my mom’s lap wearing a dirty white
shirt and no pants.
I know, it’s bad the kid has no pants but we had to come down
here like immediately and what was I supposed to do? The revolution
turned out to be like a tornado, for a couple hours we saw it coming,
then it came, then we had to go down in the basement. It must be a
pretty intense revolution if it has cells and cadres and chains that
reach all the way out to Indiana.
And you look so glamorous here, again dressed in black, with your
mascara and lip gloss, glowing like you’re still pregnant,
packing us all in, ranking and organizing us, and no baby in sight.
Everyone’s staring at me, I feel like, because I’m
not taking care of my baby, so I go over and grab her and plunk her
down in a corner where all the other babies are playing with toy cars,
toy trucks, toy motorcycles. Every one of these vehicles is plastic and
red. Is it that kind of revolution—red?
Or—plastic? Or—interested in transport?
When I saw you at the party I wasn’t drunk despite my best
efforts. You looked so glamorous, you and your husband had been in
Mexico and were buying a house in Chicago, he was receiving serious
accolades for a new project based on erasure, but your own project was
even more interesting, a stack of index cards with typewritten mottos,
which were piled on a pillar in a plasticine box and were taller than a
stack of Russian novels, already.
Text was something that could be erased or accrue, and it was really a
material thing after all, and you could see it build up over time like
a coastline, or ebb away, and there were kelp forests, deep water
trenches, feeds of cool fresh water that mixed up the bios, a
shipwreck, canneries and hotels and motels and whore houses and strip
bars and family aquariums that made a go of it and flourished for
awhile and fell into disrepair on the edges of it and finally sunk into
the water itself to be reclaimed by the kelp forest
in so many words.
Now I look down and that kid from school with the stringy blonde hair
is about to bite my kid’s arm in a fight over a toy so I pour
my water on her head, and her mother comes over and grabs my wrist, and
I pour out the rest of my water by accident on the floor, and now
I’m worried, because how long are we going to be in this
basement I should have saved my water. I look over and my mother is
clutching a bottle of water and watching me, so, ok, she’ll
give that water to my kid before she drinks any herself, so I know the
water thing is covered, I also look at you and you’re
drinking from a bottle of water and you hold your lips back a little
bit so as not to get any lip gloss on the mouth of the bottle. I can
see there’s some flats of tiny water bottles behind you like
at a youth soccer game. Are there oranges, too? Are those for the
hundred or so of us down here or just for you and the cadre?
This does not appear to be an environmentalist revolution.
I knew your husband first, before I knew you, and actually before you
knew him, I don’t remember not knowing your husband, I can
only imagine all the shit he’s talked about me over the
years, he’s an inveterate gossiper and I love to hear gossip,
though then I wonder what kind of gossip he’s going to spread
about me, of course I assume I’m boring, have nothing
gossip-worthy for him to spread, but that’s what everyone
thinks, and my life is hardly perfect, for one I’m a failure
as a mother and everyone knows that, partially because I tell them. Are
you going to tell him, later, how uncool I acted at the revolution?
Because I have been acting very uncool since this whole thing started,
I agree. I was certainly acting very uncool at that reading party, you
were amazing, magnetic, your bangs made a kind of shelving and I
remembered how you had gone to a residency in the Canadian mountains
somewhere, its name was onomatopoetic, I asked you, but I
couldn’t remember the right onomatopoeia, how was Wham, I
asked, or Oof, is it, and you said gorgeous, gorgeous, I got nothing
done but it was gorgeous.
I remember once we stopped to have lunch at your apartment while you
were at work and we went in your husband’s office, which was
long and slim like a laundry closet or something, and we watched a
little animation piece he was working on for a local band’s
video, which must have taken a ton of time and what’s worth
more, time or money? and I saw these books on anxiety disorder tucked
up among his art books, so then I didn’t know what that was,
research for a project he was working on or did he have anxiety
disorder, and he had photos around of when you two went someplace grey
in the off season, Nova Scotia, but you didn’t do any
Elizabeth Bishop tourism, but the whole thing is Elizabeth Bishop
tourism, stand with your toes in the marl and have a drink, the
shoreline torn open by the storms like a fish’s gut, noone
could breathe inside this root cellar, sorry, wrong poet, wrong flavor
It is getting hard to breathe inside this basement, psychologically, at
any rate, though I can hear a motor and the electricity is on and the
airconditioning is keeping us cold as a catch, on ice, for what
Then I feel so bad for my kid and I take her in my arms and try to hold
her close which she hates, she stretches her jaws to bite my shoulder,
which she learned from that other kid, so I crouch down and release her
and she toddles over to my mother.
You wouldn’t know it, I say to you in my head, but at night
she insists on me, she rolls over in her sleep and hooks an arm around
my neck and knocks the air out of me, or if I’m sleeping on
the floor next to her, she dive bombs from the bed to my chest, she
lands on me heavy as reality and wakes me out of whatever dream
I’m having, of an aerial bombardment or a revolution or
Your head turns back and forth, memorizing the crowd. Now I remember
when your husband greeted me at that party and said,
‘How’s having a kid?’ and I said,
‘It sucks, don’t do it’ and he said,
‘You know we’re expecting, right?’ and
then I glanced over and saw you looking so beautiful in your blonde
hair, seablue scarf, bump, and etcetera.
We both laughed as if it were an urbane
An urbane exchange
does not a revolution make. Or?
Once when we were students you said you wanted to write poems like the
Sonnets to Orpheus.
Or was it the Duino
Elegies? Either one seems a bit
far fetched, not just for you but for anyone living in this century.
Can you have a Rilkean revolution? Are you one of those instructors who
assigns Letters to a
Young Poet to your undergraduates? Who promotes
the apprenticeship as a pedagogical mode?
The revolution is about apprenticeship, that much is true. All
revolutions are pedagogical, that much seems sound.
Everyone is stepping into a little glassed-in office to give their
information to the man with the computer, several at a time, they
can’t seem to restrain themselves, and really
you’re being pretty lax, and why shouldn’t you be,
we’re not exactly an ornery bunch, women, children, older and
younger men, none of us conducting our lives with much of a sense of
purpose, most of us just anxious to see how this revolution is going to
turn out, what is going to come next, and we’re happy
we’re not out there in the elements being exposed to whatever
was in that milky rain that showered the crowds we watched on TV. It
put those kids to sleep right in the stadiums, and the cameras
didn’t stay on them long enough for us to know if they were
going to wake up. Maybe the camera crews also passed out, they
weren’t in their bio suits just to cover the graduations that
were naturally happening across the country this May weekend. Harvard,
West Point, The University of Maryland, community colleges alike were
hit with this milky rain that panicked those of us watching at home and
caused us to just pull back and stay inside and out of it, out of it.
When you arrived to take charge of us, to tell us our part in it, we
Finally I manage to get close to you and lean with my elbows against
the wall. “I just can’t believe you’ve
been part of this revolution and having a baby at the same time! How
long have you been involved in this?” I ask you.
“Eighteen months!” you say laughing.
“I just don’t know how you get it all done!
I’m so impressed! And you look great, I’m
jealous!” I say, and mean it.
“Thanks!” you say. “But I’m
still so fat, that’s the one thing.” Up close you
look not quite as slim as usual, but, I know, the weight
doesn’t come off right away, and actually you look nice this
way, you definitely aren’t now nor were you ever fat, with
your cheekbones and tiny ankles, I tell you.
“How old can your baby be, anyway?” I ask.
“Five weeks!” you practically squeal. Your lips are
this gorgeous color like where liquor and liqueurs meet in a glass, and
one of them is fruit, and I never order those, because all I can see
when I look at that drink is spill.
“I love your lip gloss!” I say.
But what I mean, is, I love you! I love this revolution!