To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Timothy Cahill: Two Poems from Exposés


Vertigo: an endless series of things
The Residue of History: an inventory of creations
Maps: look like baroque residences
Art: tectonic constants
Personality: signature of vegetal life
Types of Civilisation: pomp, splendour, illusory, security, empire,
commune, adversary, furnishing, liberating,
rejuvenating, cosmic, mythic
Terrorism: our Pompeian subconscious
Morality: does not dream
the collective, clockwork harmony
An austere system of numbers
The Head: a sort of a cockpit
The Cosmos: reveals its living body to the inorganic corpse

Exposés II


Corridors of light from above
The decade of trade,
stocks, merchandise, department stores,
the merchant,
the great poem of commerce
industrial enterprises
the engineer,
a locomotive tempo on iron tracks,
the most elegant empire of technology
The precursor to
a hundred utopias.


I dreamt of the one who will follow
Corresponding with the old images
My consciousness permeated with old images.
Images to transfigure
that antiquated imagination
which is the dream.
In this dream that has already left me,
a thousand machines
enlist human beings
to morality,
a machinery of the passions,
a land of milk and honey
filled with new life.
I saw their metamorphosis –
they became an empire,
an idol
a pedagogue


Painting sought tirelessly to reproduce the daylight,
The pupil of nature.
This silent collaboration
Of individual
(a worker
and at the same time, a
new attitude towards life)
and a political century,
will later announce the
history of technology
and lead to economic reason
Graphic information
Political agitation
Painting determined the history
that would follow.


When all the world will be reborn,
Sheep on the ground, apples from the sky,
A festival of the world –
Commercial enterprise, exchange
recedes into the background.
A person makes this easier while enjoying their luxuries:
The same spirit ends in madness.


Propagate the fantasies
Saturn’s cast iron balcony
The ritual according to the commodity
At the height of its power
An extreme opposition to
The living body,
The living nerve
It presses its manifesto
The phantasmagoria of culture
Of luxury
And irony.


The theatre of this century:
The individual stages history while
The ruling class pursues its stock holdings.
The flower is confronted by the
Iron girder.


in the asylum
the Sisyphean character
dreams of a distant, bygone world
in which the everyday
means to leave no traces


Everything allegorical
Is lyric poetry –
The hymn
The homeland
The gaze
The fall
The city
The alienated man
The crowd, the crowd the crowd
The veil
The landscape
The truth
The stage
The patrons
The market
The economic
The political
The professional
The conspirators
The activity
The army
The leaders
The adversary
The end
The rebellious
The sexual


The image of woman in poetry
Is topographic,
The bed is fraught with modern history.
Imagining such an image is no less


My geography:
the journey
the destination
the unknown
the illusory
the reflected
the ever recurrent


The beautiful things:
the ear
the eye
the effect of perspective
the imperialism of space
the counterpart of time
the mysteries
the rootless
the goal of civil war
the role of embellishment


In poetry, there are three (ideological) subjects: poets, poems and readers. A subject is formed in the transition from being constructed and being thought of as natural. For poetry, this means that moment when the poem is thought of as a closed-off object, the reader is passive with their language, and the poet is creator. But this is not post-structuralism, it is Spinoza! The distinction is that to know anything, I must expose the limit of a system from within that system itself: i.e. the moment of transition, where a subject which is constructed is made to appear natural, must be disrupted. What is revealed is a) the limits of a system that makes natural what is constructed b) the individuals (Zukofsky would call them particulars) that are made into subjects. My reference points are Zukofsky, Althusser and Spinoza. In these two poems, written through an original text, the subjects are disrupted in the following ways: poet – these poems are composed from an original text, which imposes and thereby reveals a limit to the poet’s (my) own language; poem – the original text is not set in stone and can be rearranged according to another order; readers – the hard edges and images of the poems prevent easy referential reading and disrupt a naturalised linguistic system.

[Tim Cahill is an Australian poet, currently living in Canberra. His recent book of poems and stories, Exposés, can be downloaded free from]

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