original | translation

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

original | translation