The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2017

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JUL-AUG 2017 Issue

from Exercises for the Hard at Work


Exercise #2

         “You would make an excellent traveler,” said the deer to the antler. “But what you lack is legs.”
         “You have legs,” the antler replied, perplexed by the preponderance of deer along the edge of the field, watching the cars in glances, glints, and gyrations, if forever they lacked traction in their brains.
         “I do have legs,” said the deer, proud of his four thrusters. “But I shall never stoop so low as to ingratiate them to a mere set of antlers.”




Exercise #3

         I dreamt she said, “Humor up,”
like “man up”
         because I,
    like her, had once known how to laugh.




Exercise #4

never getting the attachment
        never having got
   the Grecian allusion

never to get
  to go to Pompeii
never leaving the shoulder of

     the 12-lane freeway where
the pollution festers in boluses
  upon the elegant astroturf

I surfaced with a hand of kale
   a bouquet of radish & mustard
greens    my darling daughter

   saying to me    her hand laid
so nicely soft & lovingly in mine
     “pictures, pictures”

hoping to see beyond the reality
   of self-elected poverty
I’ll be a graduate again

   after the refugee camp’s evacuated
I’ll show pictures again
   of my wedding in Colorado

with the antelopes, bison
   & sand dunes downwind
from mountains




Exercise #5

Separating myself from these agonisms, I again barely was able to speak, when a man named Thor—or was it Sore, with an estranging Barcelona accent?—came to my homely threshold with a pencil and paper survey, “Are you dead?”

That was the choke before the real choke that doomed me to the ER, where, the doctor, a woman with a gravelly and yet quite high voice, at once that of rhubarb and of helium, asked me, “Are you deadly certain that you answered that question correctly?”

And I fainted for the second time, only to be revived in a new chapter of this dalliance altogether unlike the others that have come before it.




Exercise #9

   “I hope the baby doesn’t wake up
in the night.” “I hope there’s
      no earthquake that destroys

our building.” “I hope
     there’s no nuclear war
to kill us all.” “I hope the waiting

    ends and we feel as though
agents again.” “I hope the factories
  of Guangzhou will not kill all the fish

in the Pearl River.” “I hope to learn
    The Pearl River Analectics, the surface
of the moon in radial mushrooms,

    the art of embroidery
before beauty is ceded
   to the hyper-rationalists.”




Ready Sieve

for words
reveal themselves as spoken

dust the endless

though in these facts
the grounds of being

where we live
not insignificant

though not governors
beyond our penny’s will




Who Is Who

when I see other people
it’s clear to me
what type of people they are

though when thinking about
myself it’s not clear
who I am

maybe when others see me
they think ‘he’s
X type of person’

though what about
when it turns out
someone wasn’t the person

anyone thought
least of all that person’s




In Memoriam: Alan Kurdi (d. Sept 2, 2015)

I shimmy, I dodge, I cry, I move on, I read my dictionary, I study the French language, it’s the debris of life that floats on the surface, the sea is beyond the law, I shimmy, I dodge, the beautiful, slender, nice, smiling, white women of the advertisements inspire me to learn the French language, to buy shampoo, to do yoga, but I stay here, I read my dictionary, I read “shimmy,” I read “dodge,” how does one shimmy? how does one dodge? I’ve no friends here, but I eat my velvety yogurt with the index finger of my right hand, to my right, no law, so I move to the left, I move toward the interior, to the back, to the top, I won’t stay here, maybe it won’t be better there, I shimmy, I dodge, I move on, move on, move on, I search, I cry, it’s OK, I’m not complaining, I’ll get by, I eat my velvety yogurt with my finger, the index finger of my right hand, it’s OK, mister, don’t worry, I’m going, I shimmy, I dodge, I search, I cry, I move on.

--from Paris



Matt Reeck

Matt Reeck's translation Class Warrior—Taoist Style from the French of Abdelkébir Khatibi is available this fall from Wesleyan UP. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter, and co-edits Staging Ground magazine.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2017

All Issues