Home PageArchivesVolume no. 3Issue 2Poetry: Behm-Steinberg

Everyone Will Be Free and No One Will
Have to Die

Hugh Behm-Steinberg

 
[audio:https://newfound.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Everyone will be free (take 2).mp3|titles=”Everyone Will Be Free and No One Will Have to Die” by Hugh Behm-Steinberg]  
I’ve been thinking a lot about ardor, shyness and trust,
         what you’re supposed to give away to strangers and what you’re allowed to keep;
how some of the steel from the World Trade Center was thought to be
                          of sufficient material strength to be used in the keel
of a marine transport vessel, which as advertised
         will project American power to the far corners of the Earth
                          and support the cause of freedom (whatever that happens to be)
         well into the 21st century. My friends tell me I lead with my chin, Kaveh says this,
                    another time Simone told me this too, so it must be true. Who do you trust?
What do you mean by trust? A coin in your pocket, just in case. There’s a casino nearby.                                                    What’s the point in talking
                 if what you say has no consequences, why say anything if your power is just
                          going to be used by someone more powerful than you? Why feel ardor?
Did the people who died, did they die so they could be turned into a means;
         I mean, that’s why they were killed, why they’re always killed.
So this calculus, and this conversation,
                                       what you believe and what you’re going to do about it,
                 tell me am I going stay in my body when I die, am I going to stay
         in my body when I talk to you, is a part of me to be carried by you,
           and where are you going to take me?
I carry you, and you don’t know where we are
                                              you’ve lived here forever and you don’t know
         the desert surrounds us, no matter where we go
So when you’re thinking about what we said to one another, what you’re doing
                          when we use this language holding
                                           words out as instruments for unspeakable deeds, I
                 am turning, I am seeing great pictures with my mind, no commas breaking up
         what I see, nothing in the world to start pausing me, do not unbend me,
                                                                   lift me, lift my self out of my body
as a razor could scrape the hair around
                     my thigh where your tattooed words will go, I missed my body I missed you
                                           talking to me about my body:
         the hungriness of mentioning, great sheets of it, I could hardly sleep,
                              and I was not the balance of this world, I wasn’t even myself.
I just gave myself over for once.

                 Say forbidden nation, then, forgetting who trained you, say the night is
                                    needful, resplendent, knowing you, it says in neon lights
find you/found you   no you/ now you      open 24 hours a day/ closed for repairs

                      and definitely not frail in its forms, it is
                 like wheels, massive and numerous, the dead city
                                           that blankets the city about to be born. The world gets way
too white and this guy on the radio says ideas are for idiots and maybe he’s wrong
         you pressing yourself into the person you want to be, you shedding the body
                          of the person you used to be, so there wasn’t a war after all,
                                    there was no war after all, and you have to fight even harder now,
                                           and those men they’re on our side, they’ve always
              been on our side, and their dreams are
                          absorbing our dreams and their dreams
                                                  become euphoric and we’re inventing
         waking life so that dreams have a place to inhabit
                     and every one will be free      and no one will have to die

 

 

Savage Love Means Staying in Your Body

Hugh Behm-Steinberg

 
[audio:https://newfound.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Savage Love Means Staying in Your Body.mp3|titles=”Savage Love Means Staying in Your Body” by Hugh Steinberg]  

There’s a good reason why, DANISTHEMAN:
                     with freaks, their problems are interesting, their lies, their deceits,
         the secrets that torque them, the answers they want aren’t always
                 obvious. But your letter, it is the dullest letter I’ve ever run.
                                       And your question? “Is it love?” That’s the kind of problem
                 a young man is forced to take to his parents
because no one else could give a shit.
                     Is there anything duller? Once when I was walking home I was so bored
         pushing my groceries I forgot I crossed the street. When I looked up I didn’t
    know where I was, and I saw my exact double pushing the same cart across
                          the street from me. From such moments you learn how little you
                 really need your body, how easily it can go on without you.
                                              But, hey, here’s some advice: Are you truly in love?
Do you want to know?
                   Ask her out, date her,
                                  and if you’re still crazy about her after 50 years, then it was love.
When in doubt, always assume the other person is an asshole and just wants to steal
         your body away from you, put some dummy in your shoes and you wouldn’t
                          even know you were gone until you read the news
                                           about you and the terrible things you’ve done.
                 I might tell you to look inside. But that doesn’t really prove anything.
We’re all the same inside.
                 All we know for sure is that, for whatever reason, it didn’t
                                       work out with Ms. Skirt and Panties.
The willingness of your friends to find fault with you tells us more about them—
                 they’re assholes too—than it does about what went wrong with Ms. SAP.

I hear other readers murmuring,
                                  If DANISTHEMAN’s letter is so dull, why am I running it?
I want to send a very important message:
                                     enough with the strained acronyms already.
                                     Enough with the code:
Just Cause, Provide Comfort, Uphold Democracy, Infinite Justice, Enduring Freedom,
                                     the reason I started making acronyms was to save space, spell out
         something short and sweet—like WOMAD or SNOT or FUCK. If you spent as
much time thinking things through instead of coming up with catchy marketing devices
                                  we wouldn’t have so many problems! But things have been getting
out of hand, the sentiment is endless and clunky,
                 so save yourselves the trouble, because I’m not running any more. I’m
         staying in my body, I’m going to wait right here until my body wakes up
                                 and comes home to me. Then I will know that your hand is the tip
              of a tall building. I will know what labor you are, what resolution. Whatever
                              longing is love, let it pass on through you to your brothers and sisters,
                   with your hands, you can make money with your hands, you
    can spend it too. You can make things disappear. You can bring things back.
You can be literal for once. You can say what you mean. No matter what.

 

Hugh Steinberg is the author of “Shy Green Fields” (No Tell Books) and Dusie chapbooks, “Sorcery” and “Good Morning!” His poems have appeared in Crowd, VeRT, Volt, and journals with more than one syllable. He teaches at California College of the Arts in San Francisco and edits the journal Eleven Eleven.

 

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