Ed Pavlic
Written April 27, 2015 in the Blank Pages at the Back of Bolaño’s A Little Lumpen Novelita


And with Baltimore going up, on

a Monday, if I asked will it fly high like a bird 

up in the sky and you heard

Billy Preston’s voice as much as 

any sparrow in your eye it’d be 

because simile is simply cinema,

the screen upon which we watch

the language we use projected, 

a screen we stand behind 

and from around the back 

of which we can never find our way

in front, I mean without

each other, I mean, as individuals, 

like owners of property, like 

amputators of senses, like

those who think they’re protected 

by the forces that assault others, 

I mean, each other, by which I mean 

not each other but all of us, 

a screen we stand before and from 

around the front of which we 

can never find our way back, 

I mean back together, I mean, like

we never were, I mean, like 

when strangers insist upon referring 

to us as each, I mean as individuals, like 

others which we most media-ly are 

and which we most immediately are not: 

a mystery which, like will it go 

round in circles, from around the front

of which we go and from around

the back of which we come to find that we 

had already arrived where we’d begun, 

I mean, left where we’ve never been, 

that screen of the uncanny upon which, upon

arriving, we just miss the last glimpse 

of ourselves leaving, until 

Monday night when it became undeniably

clear, at least in part, at least to some, I mean, like

a song sung to friends that ain’t got 

no melody or like that dance you do ain’t 

got no steps and you the music

moving me around, I mean, it became clear, 

at least in part, for instance: when Don 

Lemon and his panel of panelists 

on that channel of channelists, begin to refer

to individuals as helicopters 

shoot footage of a neighborhood in chaos, 

that one neighborhood in chaos, 

for live TV broadcast, well, I mean, like,

it becomes absolutely clear what 

we’re supposed to think chaos

is and what we’re supposed to not think 

chaos is and even more clear than that 

that the channel of panelists are the invisible 

and indivisible individuals

and that the persons in the footage 

are being amputated from our senses, 

from the history of our capacity 

for touch, for feeling and that we’re being

and that we’re being and that we’re being

assaulted by the force of another history, 

that of a genocidal force that could be 

thought of, I think productively, 

as a force of individuation, which 

I think could be thought of, 

productively, as chaos, a productive 

and destructive chaos whereby 

we’re forced to buy, or rent if we 

can’t afford to buy, or borrow 

if we can’t afford to pay, I mean, 

right now, to watch the uncanny movie 

of our lives and convince

ourselves that our arrivals are departures, 

that our departures are arrivals, I mean, 

both of which in any case

we just missed and that that’s the reality 

and we the infringement upon that reality

which, I mean, if that’s how we watch 

our own—let that stand—

lives then that says something very sinister

about how we relate to anyone else, I mean, 

which packages the world upon, behind, 

in front of a screen of language beyond feeling 

and puts the world in a pyramid

of boxes marked individual 

which by now we can see is a screen

as much as a word and, when 

brought to a boil, when push comes

to shove and practice surges across the line 

into practical action—I mean, did anyone 

else just see the young man, or woman, hood on 

mask up standing outside the CVS at Penn. 

and North and shot by an individual 

lens hovering a thousand feet above his or her head, 

as he or she stood stock still before a small 

pile of something on fire, straight up, smoke in 

a complex of twisters and he or she standing 

arms outstretched and waving them slowly and exactly as if 

preparing to take flight underwater or as if 

conducting a symphony, as if listening, 

possibly to Marion Anderson 

singing “Ave Maria” or possibly to Phillip Bailey

singing “I’ll Write a Song for You” or, 

who knows, to The Weeknd singing over Satie’s

“Dances de Travers”—

I mean, did I see that because, for all the talk

of individuals on the panel of channelists

no one said one word about that underwater

maestro doing, as if enraptured, his or her own beautiful 

thing, so, I mean, in likeness of light in lenses like 

those and actions like these, 

just as much or more than anything else, 

and in light of chaos, as us, as a historical force, we can see, 

and not from a thousand feet above our heads, 

that the word practical has to mean just 

about anything our practice puts into the world and 

the word individual probably just means legally—let that stand—culpable.  

Found In Volume 44, No. 06
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Ed Pavlic
About the Author

Author of six collections of poems and two critical texts, Ed Pavlic's newest works are Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listener (Fordham UP, 2015), Let’s Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno (Fence Books, 2015), and Visiting Hours at the Color Line (Milkweed Editions, 2013). Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia, he has received fellowships from Bread Loaf, The MacDowell Colony and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. His writing has been awarded prizes including the Darwin Turner Memorial Award from African American Review (1998), the The American Poetry Review / Honickman First Book Prize (2001), and the National Poetry Series Open Competition (2012, 2014).