That You Might Know (What Sort of People We Used to Be)

          When the gallery has filled up, you can’t see the art.


          Don’t ever fossilize into something

your younger Self would never recognize,
something you’re not, or tolerate being
crucified by the unsolicited
opinions of unqualified strangers—
wasted paper nailed-up by their piercing
eyes alongside oversized advertisements
lining far the lonesome highway winding

menacing, and hard, into the city
of martyrs—no, don’t be one of them, don’t
wonder at others or wander after
them, following the crumbling columns of
a dead civilization’s dying lies
and false promises—starve them, instead, of
your attention for which they hunger, you’re

better than them all and what they offer:
nothing—a warring wolf unrelenting
in your hunt, haunting foreign lands, an hour
of shadow forever suffering—if
you fail to lift the veil of your eclipse,
to live up to the fictions by which they
expect you to exist—becoming for

them a billboard marketing broken pearls,
urban coral you pour out your soul for,
those sharp pieces of yours damage perfects,
artworks of hurt facetious words purchase—
porous trinkets sinking into putrid
seas of mouth-breathing people who live like
the parts of a machine, sometimes jewel

merchants, sometimes thieves—fiends insidious
as that bone-dissolving kiss by which we
invite disease deep inside us, softly yet
detectable—breathless as tempest-licked
metal draped flaccidly around a bent
ring-finger, a sacred symbol crookèd
in the middle, indifferent to vows

          as it is infinite, a scrapped rafter


          with no house to hold or household to support—

an impulsive decision’s electric
tingle rendered less palpable, pending
transgression’s ending this inevitable,
temptation invincible against
any suggestion of repentance—so
corrupting is their influence, gossip
and ignorance disrupt the lesson they

want you to have trouble accepting—yes,
the illusion they want you to be is
a depiction of truth worth resisting,
it’s been said by those with more faith in it
than we had, that this perilous process
is how marriage exposes itself to
the devil without protest, trust in fools

and they’ll deliver you to him, divorce
part-and-parcel of the alchemy your
heart calls falling apart, the enemy
is a noble heart refusing comfort,
an artifact reverenced like a relic—
never revere a people who veil their
mirrors when new ideas come over,

that you might know what sort of people we
used to be, read this whenever they near—
whispering widespread advice which splits thighs
as confrontations do lips, guttural
shock and obliterating fists opening
a passage where your Arctic persists, its
persuasiveness faring no better than this

message is, not unless practiced, so don’t
ever forget how far this conversation
never went—confidence can be either
speculative or operative, what
raises an apprentice to a master—
when you have its key, the secrets of the
Universe lie down for you like lovers,

          no other thing but this will set you free.

1Xan Brooks, “Pop’s dark star: the return of Andy Warhol”, in the “Culture: Art & design: Features: Painting: Exhibitions” section of the online International Edition of The Guardian, published at London by Guardian News and Media Limited on November 12, 2018; link.