|Youna Kwak [The Conversant]|
Before the Avant-Garde
by Youna Kwak
O Mistress of stars, O Almanac of gazing,
What else can we smash?
A woman's leg
is no longer
deliciously curved to be licked or reckoned or a shape wanting remedy,
an ever-after of delight and looking, and
deep kisses and not caring
who sees or thinks or how they might judge
The curve or form or arc of flesh
no longer what it seemed, not the juicy summer pear it seemed, New York
before the avant-garde, sidewalks broiling
as if seams will fly open, crack — it would be cruel
not to want better, think we
Think we know everything. Intemperance, knowing
everything. So much to smash.
To want to smash is not strange.
we remain bourgeois in the kitchen (where our mouths are open most and longest)
and proletariat in the other rooms.
before the avant-garde,
we will go to a costume party — the air rippling
with the disturbance or presence of some strain,
saintly or smug.
We'll have freshly shucked oysters —
you shuck them yourself, I'll slurp them, coquettish.
Your ex-morosing, carnivalesque, scooching in her pockets for
cab fare. Her silk pouch full of quarters rustling. Imagine,
if you had no use for quarters, laundry, parking, games, or sweets. Imagine if
as you rose with a sudden flap of wing, red flashed underneath.
It is the moment before. It's not time to be morose,
morose in the kitchen, stay put. Yellow the color
you wear to face disaster, like:
How the war is not won
how the little boys are drowning in the Rio Grande
their pants pockets full of mud
subway fare gone up
postal fare gone up
homicide gone up
baby on the stovetop, burned up
you want to shout or smash something:
Conscripted army, bury your hatchet!
Everyone who has disappeared will rise. Every inconsequent
will someday be named.
Even the rudest, the loudest, the poorest, the most deformed
will cry out with gladness
and the satisfaction of the whole, they will
eat radishes, drink beer, laugh for love as if love were intact.
What else do you want to smash? Tell me, I'll smash it.
When the resistance comes you'll have to throw everything out once more again and
Give up your armies,
your duties, your battles,
drink straight from the bottle,
then smash the bottle —
It is a story of obsession.
It starts out political but it ends in romance.
Romance is expert everywhere there is danger.
Romance flits its sniper's eye, pretending
not to see you, and it does.
Whether it fixes you in metal crosshairs,
your skin is merely light but opaque.
Merely a layer. Not
an ebony fly in the water making black swirl.
Don't waste our last moment!
— before the dense slaughter of kindness,
tender pricked probe of a baby's eyes gleaming,
widows and orphans, bark stink of vanilla, constellar sorrow
like a sky umbrella, breathing distilled to dry blue hexagons, and the air
then porous and immense and misty letters spelling out our names
then other words then god knows what else we could not read it.
In the moment after shall we remember
thick rays of heat jolting off the pavement all summer.
How it felt
to show up at a gallery dolled up, all your friends dolled up, all your friends
wearing fuchsia lipstick melting in drowsy blots. Everyone everywhere
patting, blotting, refreshing, putting on lipstick.
Foreheads and noses pooled to an obsequious lather.
When it comes I will never
reproach you, you poached egg of kindness, my Labrador.
Afterwards, there will be no pets.
Even your love for me, which is well-preserved and historical,
in the careening violet-edged ring-ding of the moment
when you contemplate your disruptive possibilities —
will chime suddenly, then
like hundreds of telephones left
in a room without people.