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John Hall

An essay on lyric ethics

Black and white version

a circuit of economics belief territorialism
a competition for the right to resources
a desk of my own
a lyric elegy for a damaged world
a noble violence
a political life-cycle of fuel
a roll call of names
a space of arbitration and withholding
a violent anti-violence of writing
a word with dance in it like chorus
an ineradicable violence

and to resist damage
anyone who isn’t for us is against us
apostrophe is dramatic not lyric
as ontological destiny
as part of their job

behind me beside me above me
bracketing out particularity
but these should not be confused

can lead to systematic mass murder
constellated by coincidence into systemic evil
costing lost sexual violence


epic song
everyone needs to know who deserves
expensive solitude
extend beyond any lyric instance

for players of musical instruments
from the ethics of lyricism

geared teleology
genealogy of comfort

having nothing to stand under
helped death workers see themselves as noble
however ceremonially restrained

I keep the company of the articulate dead
implicit violence of any belief
implies a world of the possible

in a denial
in certain circumstances
in most circumstances
in my solitude in my negotiations
in notorious examples
in the conditions of a poem

instances of individual pathology

is a condition
is certain and figures
is dangerous
is it enough that
is love or war
is lyric always melancholy does it need
is not caught up
is this sentence one of ‘ours’

its surface inscribed

love takes the named as its object
lyric mobility

modal possibilities

named as a ‘war on terror’
not just a competition for resources

of corporate extermination
of course there are ‘bad apples’ at home
of the dramatic
of the nameable
of the purity of sameness
of the right to inflict damage
of what it could be to be human
only one of which
or perhaps where drama hands over to lyric
or this terminal with its abstract address
overseen by images of male ancestry

part pensioner part employee
points at the name-holder’s chest
power outpowers power

quiet like a no-reply

repeating its silence

say that each poem
sitting at a desk indirectly bequeathed
spreading freedom
stories accounts poems and arguments

take a simple lesson
take the names away and I speak foolishly
tempting into place a theology of devolved absolution
temptingly nameable

that a poem’s linguistic order
that certain poems
that freedom is a right
that gives me title
that right is a freedom

the American people
the articulate absent
the mechanics and performances of power
the motor car for example
the nameable is destroyable
the right to damage in the name of this right

theologians used to know this
these conditions of lyric personae
these epic conditions of lyric solitude
this new expensive pen
this world in which evil is abroad
those who murdered
though as ever names double as decoys
though I have no doubt
through its exclusion of certain
throughout the world

to adopt the posture that humans do when they sing
to catch an erotics of will a violence of drive or purpose
to ignore and deny damage

transcendent subjectivity

uncertainty of circumstances
up against

violence that conceals itself

waived the death sentence
we want each other (‘s)
what contract of belonging
where music and poetry are concerned
where resources are always subject to contest
wishing for a better world
within a territorialism of style
within the complexity of financial regulation
within the law

yes ok

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