Monday, May 19, 2008

Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project

Two Windows


Combined in indestructible harmony—
Sommelier, turnip, Coventry, bust.
Language is like that:
Extending out the one
Good arm to cup
Up a dipper out
Of the continuum of
Song, musicking up a
Green and compound spathe.
Or, under the blue
Lid of the welkin,
Beclapped in a deciduous
Zoo of local trees,
A discrepancy of thrushes—
In the binocular’d soft
Circle a hermit, rufous
Tail’d and quilping—a
Veery’s slurry wabble of
Amp’d electronica dousing one’s
Ear. Skew percept. Mute
Dissolve. Truth of it
Is—it hardly matters
A jot what rathe
Adjacency is made, or
What odd lot is
Pull’d up out of
The contemporaneous implacable muck
And dinge of streaming—
A sanderling goes by
And a stroller, a
Palatable sausage, a Quonset
Hut and a string—
And bang’d up into
A sideshow, a tacit
Peremptory Mirabeau of sound.
The human way is
To adjust, to quell
Difference, skimming particulars off
The bumpy saturate, or
Providing the stray twig
Or vernal fern clump
To the skimpy arrangement.
Baling twine, spirochete, Clytemnestra,
— the spoke-
Work of the radial
Engine spins by its
Honorific, its toss and
Tow, and makes of
Constancy a wobbling song.

Either push’d too hard (accidentals unveiling the way) or not push’d hard enough. A piece in a liminal state. Michael Haslam (author of Continual Song and The Music Laid Her Songs in Language). Purveyor of robust florilegia of song.

A weekend of cursing the mower, yanking my arm off trying to get it aroaring. New spark plug, new oil, new premium gas. Pampering it like a sentimentalist, hauling off and booting it. Nothing doing. That and reading Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project whilst the cold breezes slotted in (something like 33° F. around six a.m.), rife freshets. Toads in the neighboring pond keening. Hemon punctuated with jokes about Mujo (apparently a Bosnian Everyman, hapless witness to absurdity):
Mujo is a refugee in Germany, has no job, but has a lot of time, so he goes to a Turkish bath. The bath is full of German businessmen with towels around their waists, huffing and puffing, but every once in a while a cell phone rings and they pull their phone out from under a towel and say, Bitte? Mujo seems to be the only one without a cell phone, so he goes to the bathroom and stuffs toilet paper up his butt. He walks back out, a long trail of toilet paper behind him. So a German says, You have some paper, Herr, sticking out behind you. Oh, Mujo says, it looks like I have received a fax.
Against the Mujo shenanigans: two stories. One of the (historical, and seemingly unjustify’d) murder in 1908 by Chicago police chief George Shippy of a Jewish immigrant by the name of Lazarus Averbuch amidst a kind of post-Haymarket Square anti-immigrant, anti-anarchist hysteria. One of a Bosnian (living in Chicago) writer’s researching the life of Lazarus Averbuch (by returning to the Ukraine and other places eastern European places) for signs of the young man’s fatal trajectory. Implicit (and explicit) in the narrative of fear of the Other, immigrant as whipping boy for the reckless desire for ever-increasing power of the State (and as martyr for those who oppose it) is a slurry of post-9/11 parallels. Here’s “hobo doctor” Ben Reitman (1879-1942), lover of Emma Goldman, talking about Averbuch:
“For years . . . they have been maintaining the illusion that no social question exists in this country, that our republic has no place for the struggle of poor and rich. The voices of the deep, the cries of human misery and distress are silenced by the formula saying ‘we are all free and equal in this country.’ The empty cant of political liberty has been made to serve those in ruthless power. Those who dare to object to the farce of political freedom, those who resist the social and economic slavery are branded criminals.”
. . .
“Our brother Averbuch has fallen victim to the secret kings of the republic, . . . to the gendarmes and sheriffs of the possessing class. . . . They have left nothing undone to make him appear a low, vile creature, since it is necessary to lull this nation into the belief that only the basest of men could be guilty of discontent.”
. . .
“And how many martyrs do we need before we understand we must respond armed with our righteous wrath? The kings of the republic are summoning their baneful forces, writing new laws that would turn masses of people, millions of human beings, into criminals. We know that laws ought to be obeyed only if they come out of people’s sense of justice, not because the state needs them to preserve its power. . . .”
One irony, of course: how the whipped up animosity against “Jewish anarchists” of a mere one hundred years back is now so neatly turn’d against “Arab terrorists.”

Aleksandar Hemon