Fillip 6 — Summer 2007

From "Notes from the Center on Public Policy"
Mark Wallace

The unseen battering, driving, shaking, anything to throw it off, to not be suffocated by stamped company paper symbolizing even further abstractions and extractions, to not have the face squeezed into the proper expression of eager banality waiting its turn to list services at the podium—in response, it was no wonder a focus field understood itself best sometimes as pieces strung together along the wire of a formal utterance, the lurching monstrosity dumping out access to the feeder. Casual remarks could forsake a throbbing at the back of the eyes, plead it down to a misdemeanor or even an apology, or leave only a membrane in a darkened hallway reciting clichés in a search for belief. Barter was no longer common. Markdowns could be total, not discussed, while real estate prices grew wings, calculated themselves into rarified air that left inhabitants outdoors and gasping. Who to pull against, or shove, or toss oneself in front of while dignitaries watched from guarded receptacles, uttered grumpy and transparent non sequiturs careening through a murk it would destroy them to mention.

Could one have said that the sky flashed out at those moments when presentations contradicted themselves or stumbled in their quick departures and stayed too long behind Could one believe in the difference between intention and result How to know what part of any mistake could be most trusted The offers were always less than promised and there was no easy way to make that lovable, or scratch out the scraping against the screen, sometimes too quiet for the ear and seeming more, perhaps, like a sudden tug against the chest or intestines. It was always someone’s turn to go down. The laughter then added a new pitch, a straining against the throat, while each instigation called for another showcase, another round, or some quiet grandiosity went home silently, hatching plans for genius with high speed ineptitude, believing that even the smallest pleasure could be critiqued from the perspective of a dull, intractable brooding.

Yet, how many knew much about what caused any of it, pressured as most were into frenzied motion that, from a distance, appeared to be dancing but up close resembled an abrupt, brutal jerking powered by hands unseen behind a curtain, except there were no hands and no curtain, so that in every case the dancer seemed to be causing, and enjoying, the seizures of tendons, muscles, and flesh. These seizures, it was thought (and stated, repeatedly, from sources both official and so private they were never mentioned), put one on a path to a terrace, high above the traffic and blazing with light, where the dancer could stop, look down on the jerking below and fold its arms. The dances illustrated parables about steps, doors, tracks, visible and fragrant paths one only had to follow in order to arrive. There were three such paths, or seven, or twelve, any number observable between zero and infinity as long as, for each number, a proper set of actions could be defined. No real death lurked at the back of the final chamber, it was said, for the dancer transformed transcendently into a vision of things in their places and dancers relaxing among things. It was easy to live forever, it was said, and those who didn’t had only themselves to blame.

Still in training, finding themselves spinning smack into nothing to believe, increasing rungs of middle layers looked around frightened, desperate to clutch an external authority that didn’t dissolve into static at the slightest touch. When being out there proved worthless, the conclusion had to be further out, since looking inward revealed only the urge to obey what exposed itself as no more than formless gluttony. Then came increasingly frantic grasping, dreams of foreign lands, surges of melodrama beating themselves against a megawatt silence. Sooner or later some slickness would pull up in a car, beckoning, offering a new prototype oblivious to future upheaval. And love, some said bitterly while choking down dreams of castles or supermarkets and grabbing a piece of toast, was over the moment it appeared to begin.

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About the Author

Mark Wallace is the author of a number of books of poetry, including Temporary Worker Rides A Subway, which won the 2002 Gertrude Stein Poetry Award and was published by Green Integer Books. He is the author of a multi-genre work, Haze, and a novel, Dead Carnival. He is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at California State University, San Marcos.

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