The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

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JUL-AUG 2019 Issue

from PRISE

A man that is born falls into a dream, into the sea. If he tries to climb out, the air drowns

I remember men saying, as if tearing them apart, “The white cages, painted white”

In retrospect, the city was a fluttering sensation that went away stronger than it came, almost transparent

I was a coward caught by random phrases, I panicked at the most curious things. Then a few drops fell on my head and neck

I turned from the government agencies and then, truly, dark suits ejaculated into the underground, a small rain in plastic tumblers

He leant his face into the lap, reaching for a defamation

They felt overwhelmed by the façade of normalcy

But they needed to survive

The freeways pelt down on the heads of thin-faced people

The finger on wounds

I remember the beginning: a life-sized female mannequin

I have tried to think of this a fairy tale, or as a function of mythology

But now, law aside, he took them to the quiet streets of a lower middle class suburb, where they slept in a sewage system of the best possible country

It reeked of masculinity, of curvaceous, colonial contradictions: flashy, austere, old as infrastructure

I have written you only the highlights; their reality was taken

They felt unbalanced by the splendor of his betrayal, encrusted in a sparse and minimalist image

Yet there was the fierce sun

And it seemed their seduction by the machine was far from decided

The cowboy is a colonial, his imaginary tradition

Flowing to his heart’s content, my iron chains

And “the past flits by as an image that flashes up when it can be recognized, never to be seen again”

And here was that image flashing over the humiliation

And here I invoke the failure of art to describe the mythic

I am subject to nostalgia and to a shared identity with both the archaic and modern

The schooling was mechanical, motorbikes instead of horses.

Goodbye to all that

Counter-guerilla / fire with fire / horse-breaking prowess / middle-class manners

And to this narrative Of Sacrifice Whose Blood Nourishes The Nation

To not merely accept defeat but to be ennobled by it

How a story might evade this “flowering of manhood”

Now I’ve become an addict of desire, of splitting open

My experience is not my own, not my life

Who I am is someone or something else

And the implications are here in the room

The enormous crowds, the quiet, naked athletes in your mouth suddenly disappear

The trickle of devotion

The sun fades, or the earth sinks into heaven

The ancient gods a dark glossy green, a naked simplicity of line—the only restraint to imperialist poetics

This image of love

Among the dead

From the dead

Dragging the poet like an army mule

In the lowlands of my story, I began to realize this obsession about a particularly enduring notion of America was itself sublime grandeur, warm sunlight on brooding ruins

But they were the real thing, the phlegmatic America, in which real, white granite doesn’t necessarily reflect the sun

Or cold wind

Or a rainbow

Like a flash

This glacial, stellar silence,

Through my life

Of blood, complicit in the legacy

Of conquest.

The hot town going on with itself

A young girl’s brutal husband beaten with chains by thousands generalizes the process of revolution

And the unresolved world has nothing to eat.

As to what identity is forged in silence, in plains or in forests, rivers

In the subaltern memory of carefree ambiguity—

Deaf to these appeals he turns them

In a religion of narrative violence,

The Euclidian ordering of space and time.

But now a face emerges from the dark

With a light under its chin

We find no historiography in the public dream

The powerless are compelled to act irrationally

And his ideology rests in vacuities of radical authority, a desecrated site on


women work

On the threshold of history

All too eloquent are my dead vis-à-vis

And the enemy has not ceased to be victorious

We think of the Self as a movement

Other times, a revolution

The shock of it is that I have no idea what’s happening or where I am —

Just more memories, a seizure of blue sky, clear sky, I’m not sure why

I recall the blue sky

Out my window, the first clear day

Falling down to the ground, perfectly in place

And instead of being afraid, every girl becomes furious in a very simple way, breathing loosely

Denying his authority in favor of the powerless seems like a liberal guise of Enlightenment anthropology

But neither can I resist the entanglement of interpretation—there are too many ghosts, if only these walls could talk, whatever

And our tragedy, neighbor, which is to suffer this everyday nationalism, becomes the arsenal of fairies, hobgoblins, phantoms and bugaboos. And its master

Is a cenotaph to love between discourse and the Citizen.

To imagine two people living in one body,

Is that so impossible?

This thin little ribbon of our world

In a middle-class American fortress.

Not merely from the face of the enemy but from fantasy itself, from organic splendor, the white granite of the White Colonial,

The Great Cleanliness of the national imaginary

The cause of her condition is “an unhappy reason.”

My daughter has inherited it, plus her youngest daughter

Now there is a pattern in the muscles and tissues.

You are a prime target of divine will, a neat little puzzle

Illness is intolerance of hazard,

And I’ve been in this bed all afternoon

As I lay thinking I can feel a strange power floating in my body

But the part of me that talks will always, like fog, get away

Now the midwife becomes seven women ruling over a city of the dead

The sun shines overhead.

In the vibration of my tongue a panting

Contrapuntal to their faint melody

The earth is without order and empty and darkness is upon the face of the deep

Deviation breaks representing from the represented, the body from the tooth

But the tooth was never written.

I am an incisor on a sick man’s body, a breach in the notions

Of tragedy as narrative

And narrative order


Broc Rossell

Broc Rossell is from California and works as a poet, publisher, and professor in Singapore. He runs with Jordan Scott.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

All Issues