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Now In Your Hand

by Frank Bidart


1. Victor Hugo: Preface to Les Misérables, 1862

SO LONG AS, on this earth, in our civilization, fixed there by its laws
and its customs, HELL EXISTS—A DAMNATION MADE BY MEN
over and above the fate all men must face;

SO LONG AS the three great violations of our age,

men debased by the nature of their work
women devoured by their hunger
children stunted by night without light

are unsolved, and even unseen;

SO LONG AS the world human beings have made is a world where we
cannot breathe;

IN SUM, SO LONG AS ALL THAT IS AT HOME ON THIS EARTH
ARE IGNORANCE AND MISERY WITHOUT RECOURSE OR
VOICE,

books such as the one now in your hand will not, I think, be, perhaps,
useless.

2.

when

once, pursuing the enslaving enemies and enslaving protectors
of our civilization, but encountering
only the unthinkable, a blank screen, banal
interiority, commas multiplying ad infinitum, in
short, the appearance in his consciousness of the consciousness
of the appearance of himself

when he doubted he ever believed they exist

he found that they destroyed enemies and friends

using the means in which he believed,
this system in which in every sentence you can insert not

 

Frank Bidart’s Selected Poems will be out this fall from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. (1982)


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