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This is Jacket 12, July 2000   |   # 12  Contents   |   Homepage   |   Catalog   |

Rachel Loden

Eight poems from Hotel Imperium

You can read Tom Clark’s review of Hotel Imperium in this issue of Jacket.
Notes on the poems are at the foot of the page.

My Exchange

‘irrational exuberance’
            — Alan Greenspan on the markets

Still, the path of the tango was not strewn
with roses. Five thousand years

might pass without a single dance, the dejecta
of great cities rolled out on a plain like dice

or jewels. And on my roof
the sleighbells of the gods, their tchotchkes

curled inside a broken jar at Qumran, painted
standing armies in the vaults of heaven.

Was it some corporate Sturmführer

saw a need for spreadsheets
in a town like this, with seven central bankers

to look at; the sweet sea air buffeting
the NASDAQ?  O irrational exuberance,

you make me weak!  Let me lie among
the fallen orders, vermilion petals at my feet.

The Killer Instinct

No one can quite

get over it. It is summer and Revenge
lies sweetly in the fields
with her legs open,
                            her Bo Peep
petticoats in ribbons.
                                 Et tu,
cutie?  Not

far away, alternate worlds
queue up
to be auditioned,
despairingly among themselves,

but nobody’s called back. Revenge,

our wretched darling, shakes the straw
out of her hair
                     and shines herself
into the reddest apple
on the highest bough.
                                  Hanging tough
through hundreds of such afternoons,
worried into life
                       by lightning’s play
on elemental soup, her stalwart heart

will rise again, slough off
loose brilliance
                      like a firecracker,
and pack more melodies than Mozart.

Love, revenge, remaindering . . .
is this the end?
                       - The world pumps on,
with all its gently pitiless muzak.

The Death of Checkers

Grant that the old Adam in this Child may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in him.
              — The Book of Common Prayer

This is the new socialist brain. This is the statue
of Dzerzhinsky falling over. This is my wife Pat.
This is an ode to the Bratsk Hydroelectric Project.
And I just want to say [abort, retry, fail . . .]

the kids, like all kids, love the little dog.
This/is/your/brain/speaking . . . . So I want you all
to stonewall it. Because gentlemen, this is my last
dance contest, last waltz with Leonid

around the Winter Palace. This is the Kommissar
of Moonbeams, this is the Soviet of Working People’s
Reveries. This is the new man born out of Adam.
These are the new world order mysteries — oh,

Republican cloth coat. Oh gallery of Trotskyist
apostasies. Tricia and Julie do not weep for me -
I live and flourish in the smooth newt’s tiny eyes,
my new brain fizzing with implanted memories.

You Will Enter History

But not as you imagined it,
sweet pea. Forget
the temple rumbling, the verboten
statues lurching off their pedestals,
the corny punkoid soundtrack
cranked up to its predictable crescendo.

And is that you, boy god, all golden
in a beam of light?  Nah, not really.

Let’s imagine
that it’s any normal day.
You’ve shaved your own head
in a touching but unnecessary
fit of loyalty.

Now it’s up to me
to slip you out of full Nazi regalia
and into something chic
but spiritually comfortable,
like a lit candle
and the wild fear in your eye.

You will enter history
as a line of black-cowled monks
enters a monastery,
without a word, my sweet, without
a backwards kiss goodbye.

Blues for the Evil Empire

         with a line by Unamuno

Consider the late Eurasian entity, how it lumbered
into the groggy arms of history where it was

buried. Which is more than you can say
for Lenin’s body, chilly like a mammoth

in an ice floe, if less hairy. An old man in the square
asks ‘Who is laughing at us?’ then drifts unevenly

away. The czar’s nephew comes alive
in Finland like some cyborg, sent into the future

with a mission to annoy; there are the plagues:
evangelists, economists, and experts

of all kinds, Americans who read the future
in a glass of tea, and analyze ‘the Slavic mind.’

At home, cold warriors, like dying jellyfish,
grow dim. Why no joy in Washington, no dancing

in the streets — we ‘won,’ but sleep uneasy
in our victory. The evil empire, vanquished, seeks

a plusher berth within — a red and rising sun?
A few blocks from the White House, my city twists

and keens, and someone’s child is bought and sold.
— We do not die of darkness, but of the cold.

Headline from a Photograph by Richard Avedon

New York World-Telegram, November 22, 1963

Epstein to give up on Tuesday,
Slocum to succumb on Wednesday.

Snavely: smithereens by Thursday;
Pottle buys the farm on Friday.

Saturday, Hadley-Smith eats dust.
Sunday’s child is not discussed,

Pixley: the world will end in one day,
Not unlike this coming Monday.

Drabble’s set his cap for doomsday;
Epstein to give up on Tuesday.

101 Conflations

The dead puppies turn us back on love.
              — John Ashbery

A terrible beauty
is bored, like
                    Cruella de Ville
plotting on her red
bedside telephone, but you know
my cigarette
                   stopped waving
eons ago, and nobody
in all puppydom can claim
I swept around in such a coat, or
held the negotiables
                               for such
luxury. No, instead
there was the brain saying
                                           come in
                as though attention
could be called up like a standing
army, and used to move
a room, say
the right foot after the left, or is
it rehearsed the other way.

Bride of Tricky D.

YORBA LINDA, California . . . Plans are afoot to exhume [Checkers], who died in 1964, and rebury him near the former president on the grounds of the Nixon presidential library.

And the rest is taps, or reveille. Maybe
he lies with dog & god

beneath the Yorba Linda pines, adrift
in history. There is no way

he’s rumbling on about the next
campaign, how crack advance men

break & enter paradise while blasé
press fly back to Washington.

Somebody’s shroud is in a twist
but it’s so deadly smug out on the new

world order battlements. ‘Let’s
slip the Constitution, Richard,

cut red ribbon on the virgin
century. Teach me tonight . . . .’  I find

his fierce beard lovely and the shadows
long. Asleep with Pat & Checkers

by his side . . . . ‘We could do it,’
he’ll say, ‘but it would be wrong.’

My Test Market

Let’s fly off to Finland, far
from the long arm of Olestra. There

in bog, arctic fen, and sand
are others who may understand

our epic innocence. Oh, how many
names for snow! and none

with growing market share. Where
are the snows that make no sense

so early in the morning, when the snow
is blue and blowing on the steppes?

Where is the qanisqineq,
the ’snow floating on water’?

We may ask Vigdís Finnbogadóttir,
who’s not a Finn. She may not know,

but she may point us toward
the northern lights. Her aim is true,

her snowshoes always full of snow.
We won’t come back. You come too.


‘tchotchke’ — Yiddish for trinket, knickknack, something of no special value. The Dead Sea Scrolls were recovered from jars in Qumran.
In Avedon’s photograph ‘Times Square, New York, November 22, 1963’ a haggard-looking woman holds up The New York World-Telegram with banner headline ‘PRESIDENT SHOT DEAD’. A tiny headline above the fold reads ‘Epstein Due to Give Up on Tuesday’.

Rachel Loden

Rachel Loden’s first full collection Hotel Imperium won the Contemporary Poetry Series competition of the University of Georgia Press. Her chapbook The Last Campaign won the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center competition and was published by the center’s Slapering Hol Press. Poems have appeared in The Paris Review, New American Writing, Arshile, Chelsea, Best of the Prose Poem , Best American Poetry 1995 and many other magazines and anthologies. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

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