Lake Michigan, Scene 11

Daniel Borzutzky

15 men around a van from the Department of Streets and SanitationThe men push from the side and backThe van is rocking up and downIt is starting to tipMore men come to the side9 pushes and it bounces but it doesn’t quite flip and a bunch of men walk away as a
horn blares loudly as if telling the men to stopThe mechanics of flipping a van overPush until it’s bouncing and once it bounces high enough lift from the bottom11 more pushes and the van falls over onto the driver’s side and there is a celebratory
whoop as the men walk away knowing that no one is ahead of his timeA riot is a thing that decides how it is to be doneAnd who among these men wants to consider the very long history of how he has ever
acted or how he has ever feltWhat do they see when they look at the flipped-over vanThe flipped-over van      the long pole busting the glass     the fire and the smoke bombs
the men and women with scarves over their faces taking what they can from the
municipal vehiclesThe war that has formed their relationship to the composition of the cityThe war that has formed the police officers’ punitive relationship to the bodies that
occupy the cityThe innocence of rudimentary violence as the devouring power of negationWho are the bodies when the bodies are not flipping over the vanWhat do they wish to compose when they are not composing the destruction of the cityWhat do they feel about the city and its refusal to absorb themWhat do they feel about the state and its desire to spit them outHow will they be absorbed and how will they be ejectedThere is distribution and there is despair and there are the things we decide to see when
we look and the things we decide to see when we shield our eyes from the painWhat else is there to be done once the van has been flipped overWhat steps do we need to take to create lasting structural changes in our neighborhood
our city    our nationHow many vans should be flipped over and in what orderThey ponder these questions with screams flames and poles jammed into the glass of
cars and storefronts     jammed into the burden to transact     compose     destroy

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Daniel   Borzutzky

Daniel Borzutzky is a poet and translator, and the author of The Performance of Becoming Human, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry. His other books include In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy, Memories of My Overdevelopment, and The Book of Interfering Bodies. His translation of Galo Ghigliotto’s Valdivia won the 2017 National Translation Award. Other translations include Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks and Song for His Disappeared Love; and Jaime Luis Huenun’s Port Trakl. He lives in Chicago. (Author pboto by Angel Dean Lopez)

“I am vehemently protective of my native city—its rollicking history and gritty glories are legion. But it is also sweltering, blade-edged and murderous, with brown people squarely in its gunsights. Borzutzky’s surreal and terrifying lakeside dreamscape—sparked by the real-world specter of the city’s infamous ‘blacksite’ interrogation warehouse—is deftly crafted and chilling in its proximity to the real.”
—Patricia Smith

“Borzutzky stages Lake Michigan in two ‘acts’ at an imaginary prison on the real and symbolic border of Chicago. Each poem-scene vividly dramatizes state violence and capitalist exploitation, while the tortured speakers perform a lyricism of estrangement. Throughout, we are compelled to radically critique our political realities and to inscribe our vulnerable bodies into public song.”
—Craig Santos Perez

“With indignation and discipline, Daniel Borzutzky gives voice to those actions and objects in the U.S. media landscape and to the barbarism enacted by our nation’s security machine. In the process, he realigns poetic forces to the branching patterns of language, to the convulsions of ritual theater, and to the political life of dead bodies.”
—Roberto Tejada

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