In the diamond at the heart of the moon: Sixty-nine notes on the US elections, part 1
by Sam Truitt
In memory of David Graeber (1961–2020)
1. two three four … / what are we fighting for?
2. Is poetry’s role to keep open a human possibility until all may join? Isn’t that what the confounders sought?
3. “Election” means something like the state or act of picking out or choosing.
4. An election illuminates the space between us.
5. “Election” shares the same cognate (Latin eligere) with “elite,” meaning “chosen people,” the adjectival use of which Byron introduced into English in a passage in Don Juan (Canto 13) recounting a party:
With other Countesses of Blank — but rank;
At once the “lie” and the “elite” of crowds;
Who pass like water filter’d in a tank,
All purged and pious from their native clouds …
6. We are prisoners of a world that no longer exists.
7. I think of the torch in the Statue of Liberty’s hand we metaphorically hold together in New York Harbor, as I leave the underground on the F train past Carroll Street in Brooklyn shouldering my load late at night in a near-empty car huddled untogether wearing masks with a faint sense of its improbability — as we all have seen it, in the pantomime, sent to the devil somewhat ere its time (Byron). And I thought of Kamala, she that reached for me in my love of Bernadette who wrote “The Tragic Condition of the Statue of Liberty.”
[Editorial note: flash warning — the video below contains rapidly cycling images.]
8. “Vote” comes from the Latin votum meaning “a vow, wish, promise (to a god), or pledge, dedication,” derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *wegwh, “to speak solemnly, vow, testify, preach.”
9. Voting is a speech act by one remove (to be counted is to be heard) and is semantically related to the “spondee,” a metrical foot of two consecutive long syllables, from the Latin spondere, “to engage oneself, promise” — like a sailor’s “aye aye” (“I acknowledge and I will execute”), with “aye” from Proto-Germanic *aiwi-, “vital force, life; long life, eternity.”
10. Spondee further derives from the Proto-Indo-European *spondéyeti, causative verb from *spend, “to enact a rite,” and the Greek spondeios is “solemn drink-offering” (OED).
We should have voting parties.
11. Going to vote should be like going to a party we dress for as a party and go together as a poetic body and return together and hold together the light at the end of Liberty’s hand that may exist, if it exists, for a little while longer, standing out of the darkness of the harbor.
12. The poet illuminates the space between us.
13. Agent Orange took us down a hole we will have to change — barring this latest and most electric electoral moment — the shape of our lives out for.
14. Trump is a traitor.
Properly he should be walked in irons out, and instead we must vote him there, a last defensive line like the poetry one except backwards.
15. Rabbi Sacks notes we make monuments to presidents anchored by the memorable words they spoke at inimitable crossroads — some of which they made — in the ways of human beings that stuck — that got there by de/votion.
A better place is song.
16. This is poor splintered anxious writing blinded by shock sick restless gropings awaking the morning after the last election to an alternative reality and then these past years saturated monster and menace unable to hold past a stick-figure some way ahead — except the definite conviction this vote must hold the line, even if it’s not so pretty, as a pandemic rages between us out of work and Earth systems as we have known them seemingly inexorably fray.
I don’t like politicking except as I may live it, and I can’t quite live with this gnarly mess of our current fascist flirtation, if now not outright congress. It sickens me. It affects my speech, like a knot in my throat I can’t swallow or sing/enact. We all have seen it in the news remove — Byron’s “pantomime” — and felt bite anger and impotence — the decimation of Earth rights, inhumanity, the exaltation of cruelty, mediocrity, paramilitary violence, etc. — and the acquiescence to lying and cheating and stealing and the rearranging, ignoring, or smashing of the checks and balances of governance equilibrium each elected person is sworn to defend in some semblance the words of the constitution.
Maybe it calls for more action poetics — write a long poem and wadded up soaked in sugar shove/publish it in the machine’s gas tank — though at the same time I know this criminal dust bunny, with its threads of orange shag rug stuck in it, serves a kind of purpose highlighting the neglected edges in our experiment in self governance.
17. “At night sitting around the campfire at the edge of battle” (an Aztec poem).
18. At the back of it all for me is reading P.M.’s 1983 Bolo’bolo when I was a kid of the spectrum of a reorientation of human being based on local loose loving affiliations and/or migratory patterns though always understood that such is impossible without a massive shift in human consciousness and values backward.
19. Poets are the acknowledgers of the unlegislated world.
20. “The darkness grows” (Nietzsche). There’s a centripetal force to it: the more we put a spotlight on the fascist snarl the more likely we are to climb out again, though I’m not enthusiastic about the back to normal behind it.
21. We drove to eastern Lake Ontario, into a northwestern corner of New York dominated by United States and dufus flags, to spend two nights on its primordial shore among a host of spartan, empty cabins I imagine filled with families and travelers that flock and meet summer to summer over and over here to do sacred things on what must have been an Iroquois settlement and path to the north and the Saint Lawrence across a lawn and a trailer parked in a circle of Keebler elves and gnome statues and gravel road and some cedars in the window the dogs have escaped I was supposed to keep an eye on and smoking fifteen miles off across the waters Nine Mile Nuclear Station — the twinkle of dimensional flux its core inprisms, like an election.
22. This makes no sense except one morning I found these two objects among the rocks.
23. And then, just as they warned, and we all knew, we are at war.
24. We’re not that far away.
25. We’re still in the revolution. We’re still in America, aren’t we, or maybe we’re still arriving.
BLACK LIVES MATTER shatters all originalist SCOTUS cant by showing up racism as the canker in our founding (noting too race-baiting’s been the Republican Party’s cardinal play to appeal to the arising suicidal white male demographic, as visaged in the Southern Strategy that broke the Dixiecrats, etc., dupes manipulated to feel think act against their own representative interests).
26. The actual contemporary ruler of our industrialized human condition is of course the pandemic whom we can’t vote out. Principally unacknowledged, the microbial kingdom has always run this sensorium, like our actions words: “Language is a virus from outer space” (William S. Burroughs).
27. I heard Noam Chomsky on the radio say Donald Trump is the most dangerous human to have ever walked this planet.
I looked that up and found an article in The Independent that starts, “Noam Chomsky has argued the Republican Party is the most ‘dangerous organization in human history’ and the world has never seen an organization more profoundly committed to destroying planet earth.”
28. It’s like Agent Orange’s rise emboldened the Republican Party to remove finally its “compassionate conservative” mask to show its real face: racist, misogyny, angry, fear-mongering, cruel, egotist, social dominant, fundamentalist, corporate toadyist and avaricistic and, marinated in petrochemicals, an almost prideful inability to reckon the biosphere at its crash brink. (Byron’s “elite.”)
29. Yet what I wanted to land on is that another day on the lake among the rocks I found yet another shell casing, and drinking warily a glass of tap water, looking out the kitchen window on the reactor in the distance, it came to me that we were at the edge of the whole ruddy Midwest into the plains and south all through the heart of the country (the battleground states) a continuity, the echo of which is the shotgun blasts behind these trashed shells.
Which is all to say I don’t get it — how our country got so like I remember the 1984 character Winston in the café watching on TV news of an Eurasia front victory and Orwell concluding, “He loved Big Brother.”
30. “Cry cry! Troy burns, or else let Helen go” (spondees from Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida).
31. It’s good to remember “economy” derives from the Greek oikos, meaning “dwelling,” like a house, combined with nomos, “managing,” and maybe there is through the electoral process the chance we will return to it revised — and not just blowing apart neoliberalism but altering also the common knowledge of the nature of what family is, all of us one at the lip of the incomprehensibility of the improbability that we are at all that is all we leave behind of this life.
“Economy” as in “get our economy back” — which until recently was called “political economy” before it was engineered to exclude most of us — is a trope for a return to normal or restart the “Planetary Work Machine” viz. “the monster that we have let grow and that keeps our planet in its grips” (Bolo’bolo). Yet prisoners of a world that no longer exists (I am), midpandemic it’s not part of what I am hopes in the factual countdown of our planetary necrosis that is all we have, yet pieces of promise you can see organize at the edges of the nightmare perpetrated by the neofascists in this sick dereliction of duty to this country as an entity bound by a set of poetic principles that we may form a more perfect union, even if it’s one broken into many tiny parts called fellow humans and animals, plants, mountains, waters, and skyways birds climb and even machines, cities, and algorithms — and very little time.
32. Or the neoliberal economy is the governing principle of the Work Machine: “Impersonal, indirect exchange of crystallized life-time. You spend your time to produce some part … assemble some device … bought by somebody else you don’t know …. The circuit of these scraps … the working time that has been invested … materials … and in you … measurement is money … produce and exchange … no control … so it can happen that rebellious workers are shot with the exact guns they have helped to produce” (Bolo’bolo). It goes on like this, lives fed back into the Planetary Work Machine and monetized resold via the social media algorithm engines back to us that churn behind and control the rhythm elections take — become the face of them, guided by propaganda (Bernays) — following as I heard they who control the rhythm control the state.
33. Maybe chance operations would be a better model for elections’ rhythm engine — to pull names from a hat — as we couldn’t do any worse.
34. “Beach stinks? Don’t poke among the pebbles” (Sappho).
34.5 The election of Joe Biden could save this planet as we, semistarved, know it for a little while longer.
The turning of the Senate would a little while yet longer — and potentially prove a displace for our collective harmonizing to the precious precarious knowledge that the only way to freedom is song.
Poetry and the 2020 election