Saturday, April 27, 2013

artisan and clerk - a. f. moritz

Like ghosts leaving their bodies those factories
were leaving us. Their black hulks were lying here,
complex and empty -- but we heard that they

were in fact still living, elsewhere. Their souls
had flown to a heaven called Brazil and there
had new bodies, glorious, in a new world.

The cages and vented fires there, we heard, the power
of the renovated hammering, the titanic outputs,
the inexhaustible eternity of the materials

and the labour of that world were beyond our imagination,
and the way those mills shone beside plunging rivers
fresher and wider than our oceans here,

the way they stood in the shade of primitive trees and eyes.
And we were shaken by a further rumour: of a flaw
in the world, in being itself, and even deeper --

a flaw in salvation. It was said that those ghosts,
even beatified, were eating heaven -- that despite
infinity, they would soon consume it all,

have nothing left, and start on their own bodies.
Was this, then, what awaited us? Not likely. We
were condemned. They sat us down with the manual that said,

'If you are seeking work for fifty hours each week,
then seek for one hundred. Forget sleep. Work
at having no work harder than you ever worked at work:

then you will find work faster and when you find it
you will have learned how to work. Remember,
all who seek will find, and so, think what it means

that you are still seeking. Remember, there's work for all,
but unless you try harder than the others 
they will get it and there will be none for you.

Take their work. It will teach them to work better.
You will have what you desire, so think what it means
that you are unemployed and want to die and do not dare.'

I remember that when I wrote this manual we were happy.
It was a difficult, long-drawn-out job,
what with the committee, the management, the board,

and even the shareholders demanding to approve each word,
and in total agreement fighting over the drafts,
differences without distinction, hoping to compose

by mindless opposition something perfectly insipid and bold.
Months, years went by, I was paid well
for my work to be erased, and when we could

we huddled together in the depths of the house.
We had and raised our child, we fought and cried,
watched the birds in the garden at the seed

the manual paid for, though they were free in the wild
to take their glory elsewhere
and find what seed they would.

Then it was all over, the warring factions
were satisfied, the self-help manual
for the unemployed was finished and so was I.

And now that, to help me, they put it in my hand,
I have to contemplate the perfection of my work --
no future book can equal its inescapable clarity --

and its uselessness -- neither I nor anyone
will ever find work again. Our child, for instance:
when we were employed we trained him at dire expense

with the greatest artists, and he had already created
his famous series of workers,changed into light and money,
circulating through the elongated no place

of fibre optics. But now he draws graffiti on walls,
dodging the police, for who can afford canvas?
Or he breaks windows, scrapes stones over marbles facades,

writes manifestos on stolen fast food paper napkins,
identifying himself with the subtle, relentless
markings and destructions of the wind and rain:

for no one is going to buy him any other press
and lithographic stone, no bank is going to invite him
to carve the divine history with all

its demonic grotesques on the new cathedral's door.

Moritz, A. F. "Artisan and Clerk" Modern Canadian Poets. Jones, Evan and Todd Swift, eds. Manchester: Carcanet Press Limited, 2010. 155-7.

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