Ryan Sheldon

Three Poems

My Enemies

Not in this country, he said,
and there were many of him.
A corridor of hot sinew draws
a line from the back of my skull
to my eye. I’m not a generous person,
not lately one for coaxing a world
into being so much
as leaving one socket lit
at the wrong end of my structure.

A recent
exponent
of supply-
side poetry
argues that
we are all
going to
die so why
not make it
beautiful
why not make
violence
something like
a timeshare
why not build
a better
terrorist
with your friends

our humanitarianism is, um, getting a bit rusted out here.

Let’s say the city is going to become a graveyard.

If twenty-nine people or fewer are killed in the course of tactical warfare,
this is considered to be a necessary and lawful evil.

Once it’s over twenty-nine people, the problem becomes, more, representational.

You’d better make some database
art soon or everyone is going to demand
their money back.

You ought not to use the word
capitalism without first historicizing,
says one man to another man.

These beers are the worst beers,
replies the other.

Then they both burst into flames.

Someone is typing a comment.

I want to believe
that poetry has meaningful enemies,
that poetry can make its enemies
the highest and most valuable enemies,
enemies that would make the state start
to hunger in its jealousy, enemies whose
pivotal defeat would present a way out.

If we declare this island a garbage heap—
If we declare this moment a country—

our peril starts to look like a place we could leave
if we wanted, a movable injury, a settlement voucher.

Just give me another minute
here. We’ve had some time
to think about it, and we don’t
do exits and we don’t do

strategies—

Instead, we do exit
wounds and asset
sales and count these
among the many possible
genres of leaving.

I am not
a first-rate
enemy.

Perhaps my
marketing
arsenal
requires some
refinement.

Late capi-
talism is
a good start
a good brand
for my late
discontent
lots of room
in here it’s
flexible
it admits
so many
different
maladies
it won’t keep
me up too
late it’s like
the green tea
of nightmares
slow and cool
deaths falling
faraway
pixelated
and star-like
retrenchment
of social
services
rise of a
zombified
service e-
conomy
the whole thing
really is
what we mean
life washing
a kind of
cloudiness
the sudden
increase in
the amount
of money
it takes to
keep being
alive and
everything,
your labor
advanced
unwilling
and also
inevitably
a function
of advanced
ill squeezed
labor in
its own right
the looming
threat of sun
death and the
wintry light
it gets hard
to keep your
eyes on the
target.

Make America the Great Satan Again

challenge

burn the flag
or paint a
large mural
of the flag of your
enemy on the wall of the
building, the soft likeness
of bombing in public view
fountains gushing red with
the trope of martyrdom—

that, you say,
that looks like
someone we
can count on.

You, not so.

You do not
look like a
person we
can count on.

I don’t have
to worry
about you
because you
do not look
like someone
the state will
choose as its
enemy.

When we circle
each other, it
becomes clear
to me that

you are not
nor are you
likely to
become the
enemy,

which makes you
in some way
the perfect
enemy.

Insurgent
politics
is explained
as follows:

Do you want
to go out
for dinner
or do you
want to stay
in and eat?

I just want
someone to
listen once
in a while.

The Sectarians

I wanted to claim the space
of a partisan, the bloody pit
at the center
of belief
a formula with gravity
an anachronistic homing pigeon
the best Instagram post in the world

whether my language
ought to know me is a matter
for combat semanticians

I took by the throat
the circumcised dog
and smote him, thus

he was a militant and
thus was he smitten

and so indubitably
was his militancy

confirmed

thus was I
feverish and
  trying to understand

sleeping on this
my small earth
free of weather or magnetism

it gets old swallowing pills
and wondering whether you’ll go into the ground

another toxic particle
another article of settlement.

what is a border if not the delusion of a world
without consequence
a whisper that says we will touch every
architecture. every setting and every premise.
every perimeter. production. the growth and
the mire, the slop, the dirt, the food.

the tongues of muck and volt
in every reactivated blacksite.

watching the crawler, live-streaming evil,
today is about the mathematical crime behind the concept of the ‘best possible world’

it’s about soft propaganda, it’s about picking your top-ten battles, mitigating the conflict,
it’s about echo chamber music and piles of discarded embassy forms.

it’s about actually non-existing democracy. about the fake parcel of rockets, about coloring in the numbers, it’s about reading without ever moving your eyes, it’s about the sponginess of a lung while it dies in occupied territory, it’s about the regime game-changer, it’s about the real rockets, it’s about watching rain, something like rain,

fall again
and again
and again.

"the gulf war didn't happen"

but it did

bore a hole in my gut,

hearing that
when spectacular glut

was my preferred punishment.

       Like any
good mother mine forwent witnessing

her war so that we
could grieve easy
and decontextualized, the injury soft

magnetic and gentle like a bird frozen

on the wing.

I never x’ed my windows, and now

   I am just digesting the anger
or looking

for a good way to make
this thrice plied fruit

worth swallowing as it

is pushed to the back of my gullet.

I’d rather fake this burial
in the interest of sheer smoothness.

Just make your profile picture green.