Twelve Fundamentals

Friday, November 9, 2007

First there is what matters.Once it matters it is measured.Measured as mass. Mass is the amount of matter in an object.For example, in a rifle. In relations of matter and mass,celestial location is inconsequential. A rifle in the spheres is a rifle in Akron. Second, distinguished from mass,weight is the tug of gravityon a given rifle, polished or no.The gun, then, bears heavier on the manwho carries it through Akron than on the manwho drifts with it on his fingerprintsthrough the spindle of planetary spheres.This distinction between the weapon's mass and weight must be maintainedto prevent the properties by which we live from beingblown to rags. Third, to further pickle and preserve the balances by which we live, a truly stellar manmust, then, refuse to entertainhow the gravity of his decisionsplay out in Akron. Fourth, gravity is one flavor of force.A force causes a body to changein speed or direction. As in, slammed limp and laterally across the narthexby a seismic quake or fragmentation grenade. This is what we mean by influence.In Akron, then, when any maninfluenced by conscience or conscriptionslings his rifle from his shoulder meat toward the great metallic lake to the north,a force causes it to make for the verycenter of what we call Earth. Fifth, hard work is an American virtue.Work is done when a force movesan object in the direction of that force. For example, gravity or gunpowder pulling a flock of swifts or a bulletwith their beak dive or its spindrift down into a chimney or a sternum. Sixth, the amount of hard work achieved is the product of the distancethat the bird or the round travelsand the force acting upon it - in thisinstance, gravity or infantry offensive. Merely applying force to an objectis not scored as honest workunless measurable motion takes place. For example, a semicircle of radicals sedentary on private property in middle Akrontaking baton blows to collarbonesamid swifts funneling overhead is doing absolutely no hard work. If, however, the collaborative forcesof batons plus plummeting birds causes the collective of radicals to collecttheir plum-lovely injuries and flee, some serious work is getting done. Seventh, the rate at which work gets doneis called power. Power is the amount of work chalked up per unit of time.For instance, measured in terms of splash, the rifle slung in Akron is longenough airborne en routetoward the great metallic lake to the northand is pulled down forcefully enough toward the Earth's loin pit - where inthe heat its chamberand hammer will meltto dross - to be powerful as hell. Eighth, time, here, is the kicker. The ambitious mission of man is to assure with his stumptastic utterance and his deadfinger saluteto the arena flashing like planktonthat the present is not the matter, is prologue, that the future is secure, that there always will beanother Akron in which we will live better. This is what we mean by politics. Ninth, in politics power is the capacity to change the behavior of others to get the outcomes one wants. But in order to measure changed behavior the preferences of the others must be known. For example, when a man in Akron is told to "swallow this barrel,motherfucker," we must be sure he does not already prefer to swallow this barrel, motherfucker. Otherwise power is an illusion. Tenth, the crux of politics is prolix:power all sketched out in the excess of languages. The rest of politics is proxemics: allegiance to the authority of official distances between conceptual artillery and actual arteries. Eleventh, just as in Akron, in the lightless spheresthe once and comfy notion of absolutenesshas been outed over time as tyrannical. Replaced by situational, amorphous morals. Spiring irony: absent absolute all becomes permissible;orgiastic confetti of cartridges,sprinkles on the whitest of ice cream. Thus, to last,the man adrift in the spheresremains rootless, maintains the essentialelements of his arsenal. He must believe Akron is as Akron isand was and will always be, and violence is violence and waris war and in order to maintain orderover pile upon pile of my dead body one must do what one must do.For when in doubt, tautology. This is what we meanby crisis of imagination. Thus, to last, the other man must never leave his rusty-ass Akron, must imaginea method of resistance unknownto conceptual circles, position himselfvis-a-vis the wordlessvacuity of worlds without gravity.In order to resist he imaginesa flock of swifts sleekas a pattern of flying riflesseeking cover from a squall anchoring down in a chimney where their breasts blotch with ash,where their eyes liquefy from fire, and where he will be forced, above all elseto salute their crude appeal.

Ted Mathys' first book of poetry, Forge, was published by Coffee House Press in 2005. A second collection, Surface to Air, will appear from CHP in 2009. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, his poems have appeared in Fence, Verse, jubilat, Web Conjunctions, Aufgabe, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Ohio, he now bunkers in Brooklyn.