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Fiction by Kass Fleisher
 
Music by Paul A. Toth
 
Art 'I Wonder If I Can' by Brian Hutzell

'I Wonder If I Can' © 2007 Brian HutzellI Wonder If I Can
after Neil Young

 

We remain on the edge of an impossible confidence, mining what sweetness implored us, pursing the lips that unhinge, tracking spun along the corridors of fistfirst revolution.
-Jacques Derrida and Kass Fleisher

1.

People said: Say it, no ideas but in things. The process by which we make ourselves open to the possibility that something is a poem constitutes part of that thing’s value. Expose the reign of logic. Any transgression is progress, but it has to be more than a fuck-you to tradition. But. Twenty-five hundred, not to mention twenty-thousand-plus. Not to mention the one-hundred-fifty thousand we never mention. Inequalities may be deemed just if they contribute to the common good and, in particular, if they contribute to the support of the least advantaged in a society. The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.

Right.

Kass Fleisher said: My yogi tells me to shoot my tailbone toward the wall and exhale through my vagina, but does she really want me to pussy-fart right here, right now?

I said:
I said:
I said: Imagine.

2.

People said: Philosophy, art, criticism and politics articulate what doesn’t yet exist, but which eventually must exist because of what does. An artifact contains the instructions for its own interpretation. Of course this is a difficult poem. Why would anyone bother with an easy one? Let history say about us that we mastered our time. But. What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that ain’t so. What is it that we know but do not yet know we know. The world saw evil that day. Yet the gods of China are always Chinese.

Sure.

Kass Fleisher said: I worked my ass off at the gym for ten goddamn months and all I lost was my fucking tits.

I said:
I said:
I said: Imagine there’s no countries.

3.

People said: Back to the rough ground! Composition, or how life is conducted. It’s not the government’s job to create overall wealth. The role of government is to create an environment in which people are willing to take risk. Sound, after all, is more like a liquid than a solid. There is no grasping, fixing, framing, or settling it. We are always inside of sound, which in turn fills as we listen to it. We should see ourselves, or hear ourselves, as containers of sound. There is always noise. But. Shit, we’re gonna have to redraw the maps. If transgressive art doesn’t seem dangerous enough, go to the fundamental sources of the art and bring them back to our time. I thought the story would be compelling enough to cause a sea change. There was an idea in the air that fiction had become impossible, since it was not the real stories of journalism. Yet if everything is impossible, then anything becomes possible—story thrives on its own impossibility.

The Signalman said: I wouldn’t go in that tunnel if I was you.

Kass Fleisher said: They say there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

The Signalman said: Yeah, but it's really a train.

I said:
I said:
I said: Imagine there’s no heaven.

4.

People said: Imaginative intensity. Shouldn’t we be devoting ourselves entirely to direct social action rather than the “luxury” of poetry? I longed to do heroic deeds with my bare hands, thirsted to be kind to people, particularly the weak and humble and oppressed. If no matter how you balance on the one you cannot see the other, cannot tap the sleep spine, cannot read what the word was. Art as a group activity is more important than art as an individual activity. But. About this illegal alien thing. When you hear people like me talk about assimilation, that's what we're talking about. Helping us remain one nation under god.

Where the fuck have we landed now?

Mike Amato said: You take the compass like this and you turn the map like that and set the declination which in Boulder is about fourteen degrees and you figure out your bearing and then you count how many steps you take and turn and walk exactly that many steps and that’s triangulation and you’ll know exactly where you are and that’s orienteering in a nutshell.

Kass Fleisher said: With me at the helm it’ll be more like orienteering in a nuthouse.

I said:
I said:
I said: Imagine no possessions.

5.

People said: The necessary question is not “Is it good art?” but “What is the art good for?” New art should shoot bullets. World-systems analysts say that all forms of knowledge activity necessarily involve grand narratives. Translation becomes an allegory for women’s writing: the author translates her body experience and previous reading into one language, the translator continues this process into a second language, readers rewrite meanings and the process continues. Proposed by the pedagogical wing of modernism’s reception as pragmatic and clarifying, close reading now finds itself dismissed as ideology. And the real avant-garde stays avant-garde. Look at Finnegan’s Wake. But. I traveled to Baghdad to show our nation's commitment to a free Iraq, so the Iraqi people will know that America will not abandon them. Our efforts in Iraq are necessary for the security of our country, and we will succeed. Read the rocks. The handwriting’s on the wall. We are entering a period—period. A Period Of Consequences.

Period.

Kass Fleisher said: What is with my ass, when every time I wash my fucking hair in the shower, one fucking strand gets caught in the crack, and then I have to go in there and dig it out.

I said:
I said:
I said: Nothing to kill or die for.

6.

People said: Art is not an end in itself but a means for achieving larger ends. The last few decades of attempts to bring the material conditions of production and consumption, including the materiality of symbol-making, to bear on the conceptual assumptions underwriting, or extending from, such conditions have complicated, perhaps, any easy rapprochement twixt Horace and Barrett Watten. Mistakes were made. Mistakes? I can’t think of one…. Our primary cultural export is now doubt. Uncertainty. So. The river she’s rising, just like she used to do, only way hotter and way bigger. Physics of bliss, the groove, the inscription, the syncope: what is hollowed out, tamped down, or what explodes, detonates. No one gets left behind. I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo, the realm of the celestial Mother. Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the Kingdom.

Kass Fleisher said: And then, there are these fucking neon rubber croc shoes. The whole fucking country’s embraced a massive Fashion don’t.

I said:
I said:
I said: No.

7.

People said: We are liberators, not conquerors. But. Language is shifting beneath me. Is anybody doing anything about this? It’s interesting to consider the etymological roots of “rest,” a word originating out of nomadic experience when it was a condition poised in the tension between the inclination to go and the desire to stay. A “bardo” is a gap, a space between in which you cycle and recycle unproductive options. You don’t know whether you’re coming or going, you can’t see what’s ahead or behind you. In that space we need to return to the fundamental moments of liberation that have accumulated in our lives. Yet the opening of the American West meant the reforestation of the East. That’s important. So. No one gets left behind. Slow death or fight. It’s war! But. The only war worth fighting is the war on imagination. In a vision I saw myself and the twelve apostles were stoning me. Though you will be cursed by the other generations, you will come to rule over them.

Right. Give me five.

Kass Fleisher said that Chuck Norris said he once challenged Lance Armstrong in a contest to see who had more testicles, and won by five.

I said: Don’t.
I said: No.
I said: Not.

8.

People said: It’s happening it’s happening it’s happening it’s happening it’s happening it’s happening it’s happening where are you it’s happening it’s happening it’s happening it’s happening is anybody out there? I mean, like, where do sentences go to die? Apathy isn’t it. We can do something. No one gets left behind. No one gets left behind. No one gets left behind. It can’t go on it must go on it goes on. Is anybody doing anything about this? When nothing you do will do, what will you do?

Joe Amato said: Huh. Gregory Corso had a part in Godfather III.

Christa Cline said: Huh.

Kass Fleisher said: Gregory Corso was one of the poets living in Boulder when the beat scene was happening.

Christa Cline said: Huh.

Kass Fleisher said: Boulder has this amazing history of all these beats hanging around till—I don’t know, maybe ten years ago.

Christa Cline said: ..................................And now there’s…you.

I said: No.
I said: Not.
I said: Again.
I said:
I said:
I said: Twenty-five hundred. Twenty-five hundred. Twenty-five hundred.
I said: No.
I said: Not.
I said: Again.
No.
Not.
Again.
No.
Not.
Again.
No.
Not.
Again.
No.
Not.
Again.
No.
Not.
Again.
No.
Not.
Again.
No.
Not.
On
my
watch.
(And I’m
not the
only one.)

Contributors, in Order of Appearance:

William Carlos Williams
Gerald Bruns
André Breton
William Gass
Bob Schieffer
Paul Strom channeling John Rawls
Sam Spade Georg Hegel
Tzvetan Todorov
Charles Bernstein
Richard Nixon
Mark Twain
Gertrude Stein
43
Wallace Stevens
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Gertrude Stein
43
Gerald Bruns
John Cage The Gunner
William Gass
Al Gore
Ronald Sukenick
Gaston Bachelard
Joan Retallack
Clifford Odets
Anne Carson
Charles Seeger
43
Charles Seeger
Clifford Odets
Joseph Tabbi
How2
Nick LoLordo William Gass
43
Charles Seeger
Joe Amato
Richard Nixon
Roland Barthes
Michel de Montaigne
Selah Saterstrom
Sofia Diaz
Pete Seeger
The Gunner
Clifford Odets
Michael McClure channeling Diane di Prima
Jesus
Judas
William Gass
John Lennon
The Gunner
Samuel Beckett

divider

Statement of Intent

Gathering texts for "I Wonder If I Can," I found myself captivated by the various modes and codes we use to disguise our ugliness everyday—this is especially disturbing with regard to the way we discuss the war in Iraq and other atrocities committed in our national name. Neil Young gave a stunning rendition of Lennon's song at the war-protest concert, asking us to "imagine no possessions," adding, "I wonder if I can"—and that shift of one pronoun makes the world of difference in the search for accountability. I thought it was a wildly humbling and generous gesture on Young's part in an age when people (myself included) often talk about their daily workouts with more passion than they discuss the quarter-million people who've perished in our occupation.

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last update: July 2, 2007