Farid Matuk               (page 6)
To Claim Great Things for Such a Practice, or, Getting Over

I attend to that reach and the desire that motivates it. For all the performative complexity I find in Martinez’s phrase, I was first drawn to it because it is the same thing we would say when I was growing up in a bad neighborhood in Anaheim and relatives visited from Peru and we’d crowd them into our tiny car to tour them through Bel Air and Beverly Hills. I can remember pressing my face against the glass and fantasizing about what it would be like to live in those estates. I lived instead in a neighborhood where the police helicopter shone its search light into my bedroom window at night to ferret out the guys hiding in the alley and where drug deals took place in front of our apartment. Yet I could feel identified somehow with the rich who lived in the nice neighborhood, I felt proud that the rich and I at least shared this new country and that together we could show off their gilded gates to relatives who came from far away. So there’s a sense of desire there, something I wanted in the nice neighborhood that doesn’t sound righteous or strong or correct to admit to. I think this is what Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway meant when he spoke of the “consoling proximity of millionaires.” Righteousness of the kind Levertov espoused is useful, but it’s necessarily antagonistic. I’m more interested in a poetry that’s permissive of our darker, less decorous natures. Not because I want us to wallow like pigs in our own slop, but because acknowledging our mess seems to me a deeper starting point from which to build an ethic.

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