New York Visitation: 29 July 2009

In a museum we walk past the energy
Others have stored in their works
Photographs paintings and collages
An installation with repurposed sound
And light as though the ground
Were advertising its very existence
One mushrooming bulb after another

My brother speaks of obsolescence
That forms themselves are eventually used up
All those announcements of the death
Of this or that historical practice
A stretch of road somewhere west
Where no painting and no poem has progressed

I’m not certain I share his conviction
As we walk through a New York
Under frozen construction
Billboards and buildings going up or down
Capitalism caught at the moment
Its financial pants have hit the floor
Mid costume-change

Language—or is it grammar?—
Might just be the cops
And the market expressing its preferences
May be the unacknowledged legislator
now But haven’t we made a game of obsolescence?
Everything must get old for something to be new

Or else how keep selling the system?
We walk past the Chelsea Hotel
Where a plaque marks a poet’s drunken end
Such mellifluous tongues in its bricks
Everything dies—everything ends
Why should forms be any different?
We sold ourselves to this particular practice
At the moment we began to regard our genius
As the preciousness we could posses alone

Now everything reminds us of our energies
And the objects and hours where we spent them
But do we see the relations we have fashioned
Trying to get across the abyss
One simple thought or emotion
From a mobile here to a fluid there
Where people have gathered—and go on gathering
As clocks stop and museums close?

This poem “New York Visitation: 29 July 2009” originally appeared in 21st-Century Poetics. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 210-211 (Autumn/Winter 2011): 133-134.

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