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GEOFFREY G. O’BRIEN
THE NAMES OF PRODUCTION
This poem was written at a time when the choice
Was between no choices and one other,
Both repeating daily, as day or in it.
In Spain they were voting to sleep outside,
Talking about their future as though
They could invite it to come be with them.
This poem was written in that time at it,
As though it could invite itself to
Be otherwise. It has the form of a square.

At that time it was raining while Manning
Received letters in his cell. Microloans
Allowed lenders to imagine minor happiness,
Joplin changed. A friend described its
Having sour cherry notes initially
But entirely different when returned to
A few hours later. And the poem was
Similar, it had begun in response
To a book about empty persons in poems
Retreating from themselves towards poetry

In the general sense, which makes them
Against the day, in Pynchon’s phrase.
It was similar to wine because one had to
Have the privilege of inviting time
To do it, opening its crossings to Gaza
Despite being unfit for trial. It is
An embarrassing poem that chooses words
To stage intentions and the other choice
Just pushes the poem into the stormfront
Of future time, its Spains and Arizonas.

A proper name may be the only word
That can embarrass the poem in the future
As well as the present. It has a life
Of six hundred years before decaying
Into the final broadcast. The choice is thus
Not between no words and words
But the thing between them, a person.
Yet I find it very hard to get up
In the morning (before 8), especially
If it’s summer and the tea tree glows

Like a book you can’t buy
By any other means. It seems more
And more likely Wilpon will have to
Sell the team, but that’s an inside thought
Shared in a false square. The distinction
However is lost on me, sunlight in a book
I failed to finish (not the Izenberg,
The other one), in a time where I
And failed are synonyms one can’t
Choose between so much as move through

Elbowing the others out of my way
To get a better view. But I is also
The others, though not in Ashbery’s
Translation—motion may not even be motion
So much as a chain of equivalencies
Posing as bodies, what in poetry
We would call a sight rhyme like that
Between bury and fury, minor differences,
Those between reading and speaking,
Sleeping and waking, talking while asleep, etc.

But the distinction is lost on me
Because of the late May cold in the East
And the summer started so casually
Long before they say it does—it was
45 degrees in Chicago during the game
Last night, at the time it was fated
To be, and the game matched this contingency
With its own, which I watched part of
On pirated internet as though I had to.
I hear her upstairs singing this

While exercising, which she’s taken back up
Like air traffic over Northern Germany.
The poem begins to choose admitting this
Present over refusing to, both does
And doesn’t go to the wedding in Kansas,
Accepts what he says about the pomes
Of the quince and redbud while they walk
Through a late Midwestern spring, a loan
Repaid over time. She goes longer and longer,
Mastering her fear of being out of breath,

Falling asleep as the plane takes off,
Unsurprised at the physics, the early hour
With its threats of stagflation and victim
Laws. What I means to say by this is
Each subscription set is 40 dollars
But part of what you get is the sense
They’re free by the time they come because
You’ve forgotten paying for them
And it doesn’t hurt that they’re slim
Volumes of poetry whose cover never changes

Only the colors of it, a choice within
No choice that mimics the present in a way
I can be upset with or excited by depending
On what time I woke up in what season.
I wanted to do it right this time, a rhyme
Between headline and deadline in a poem
With no endwords but June 1st
Approaches through my best I-intentions,
Which mistook bad faith for a real dream

Of falling in love with the not yet
Made as though it were close by,
On the other side of a square you reach
When closing your eyes, invited in
Without having been outside, still
In that grave where anything rhymes.
To be the doom of that effort like
A wheel in the air over Yemen,
Shot again without feeling it for years.
The few readers we promised ourselves

Are us, waiting for time in the general sense.
But days come and the character
With which to measure them unfit
To stand trial. Such that the poem
Is now believed to be the most distant
Object ever seen, a porchlight.
Before he could get there they took
Strauss-Kahn off the plane, no doubt
Alarming other passengers in the process
Of resenting the long trip they had chosen

Freely. Reyes, Wright, and Beltran
Were all classy about it but it isn’t summer
Yet, and there is no chance the story will
Wander away—that’s why they play the games.
Then one of the volumes comes, by a poet
Who had gone out of her way to be cruel
To me once, but despite this I loved the poem
For its honesty about how little poetry can do
And loved an emptied version of her
For having admitted that in the lonely square

Of a book. I can’t even remember whether
This was covered by the last subscription
Or given to me as a gift by the publishers
Because I am just old enough, 42
At the time of this writing, to function
As a minimal uncle to the words of the young,
The new breath in the pages falling over
Bremen, which actually only sight rhymes
With Yemen and has 12 sister cities
Including Durban, Gdansk, and Haifa.

She is upstairs which means I have no choice
But to be downstairs in the present-past
Which is the difference between affect and effect
Before pronunciation lets you know
Whether either is not the other or a verb
Cleared for takeoff but second in line.
By the time speaking comes you can’t remember
Having paid for it so it feels like a gift.
The same holds for waking up in May
On the 25th expecting a fair hearing

From the other Is despite their being pre-
Occupied with a search for the missing.
It’s like having to do two interviews
At the same time with one of them
Already late and the other barely started
Though it’s now not due till June 10th.
No, it is that but with the simile still real
As a sister city. All the little others
Who live there like each other does,
Waking up to find that after

Surviving the morning they were faced with
The afternoon is unabated terraces
Already over far to the right. It’s undeniable,
More than forty years of collaboration
Both before and during which the body
Was the genius and the life at best
Talented at moving that body around
In time, the poem of the unchosen
Written with the left hand. Previously

This would have been the end, a wan
Gesture designed to melt into air
While May dies, the anticipation
Of freedom rather than its solid world.
But that has come to seem an exercise
In futurity, less an ending than a surrender
To the belief that time restarts where a poem
Stops making choices. I’d like simply
To be done with them as at the end of a list
Of proper names—Corinto, Dalian,

Maracaibo, and the rest of Bremen’s twins—
That move too would be pale and cold,
The underside of a stone by the Proxy Falls
On a trail through the Three Sisters Wilderness
I couldn’t find again without help
From the people still minimally there.
It was after the third such accidental strike
That we came out into sunshine which delayed
The trial from starting, melting through
Four minutes of chaos as he tried to resign.
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