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Ben Lerner

Three prose poems

from «Angle Of Yaw»




THE DARK CROWD CANNOT BE SEEN DIRECTLY, the dark crowd does not interact with light, but the dark crowd can be detected by measuring its gravitational effects on visible crowds. The visible crowd moves toward the dark crowd, as insects toward a black light trap, in the tropism we call history. Riot guns with rubber bullets, tear gas, water canons, flying wedges of heavily armored police, are not only incapable of dispersing the dark crowd, but, by inciting a phase change in the visible crowd, expand its ranks.




WE ARE PLEASED TO OFFER A LAMP that turns on and off when you clap, when you clap your eyes. A lamp that lets you see in the dark without disturbing the dark. A lamp producing natural light. A lamp that when you clap turns on and on.




THE SOLDIER IN THE FILM asks the audience to describe his wounds. Unaware his legs are elsewhere, he attempts to walk out of the screen. What matters is the form, not the content, of the airdrop, how it alludes to Manna. Then kill me, he begs. Active soldiers act like actors, inactive actors act like soldiers, audience members vomit in their giant sodas. Dance, I say, aiming near his feet. Think, I say, aiming near his head. The crowd dismembers. Now I’m on my back, making an angel, awaiting, not the peanut butter and propaganda, but the flowering apparatus that retards its fall.



Ben Lerner’s first book is The Lichtenberg Figures, published by Copper Canyon Press. He co-edits No: a journal of the arts.

You can read an interview with Ben Lerner (in conversation with Kent Johnson) in Jacket 26.

You can read more about Ben Lerner on his Jacket author notes page.


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