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Twelve Fundamentals

by Ted Mathys

First there is what matters.
Once it matters it is measured.
Measured as mass. 
Mass is the amount of matter in an object.
For example, in a rifle. 
In relations of matter and mass,
celestial location is inconsequential.
A rifle in the spheres is a rifle in Akron.


distinguished from mass,
weight is the tug of gravity
on a given rifle, polished or no.
The gun, then, bears heavier on the man
who carries it through Akron than on the man
who drifts with it on his fingerprints
through the spindle of planetary spheres.
This distinction between the weapon’s
mass and weight must be maintained
to prevent the properties
by which we live from being
blown to rags.


to further pickle and preserve the balances
by which we live, a truly stellar man
must, then, refuse to entertain
how the gravity of his decisions
play out in Akron. 


gravity is one flavor of force.
A force causes a body to change
in speed or direction.  As in, slammed
limp and laterally across the narthex
by a seismic quake or fragmentation grenade.
This is what we mean by influence.
In Akron, then, when any man
influenced by conscience or conscription
slings his rifle from his shoulder meat
toward the great metallic lake to the north,
a force causes it to make for the very
center of what we call Earth.


hard work is an American virtue.
Work is done when a force moves
an object in the direction of that force. 
For example, gravity or gunpowder
pulling a flock of swifts or a bullet
with their beak dive or its spindrift
down into a chimney or a sternum.


the amount of hard work achieved
is the product of the distance
that the bird or the round travels
and the force acting upon it - in this
instance, gravity or infantry offensive.
Merely applying force to an object
is not scored as honest work
unless measurable motion takes place. 
For example, a semicircle of radicals
sedentary on private property in middle Akron
taking baton blows to collarbones
amid swifts funneling overhead
is doing absolutely no hard work. 
If, however, the collaborative forces
of batons plus plummeting birds
causes the collective of radicals to collect
their plum-lovely injuries and flee,
some serious work is getting done. 


the rate at which work gets done
is called power.  Power is the amount
of work chalked up per unit of time.
For instance, measured in terms
of splash, the rifle slung in Akron is long
enough airborne en route
toward the great metallic lake to the north
and is pulled down forcefully enough
toward the Earth’s loin pit - where in
the heat its chamber
and hammer will melt
to dross - to be
powerful as hell. 


time, here, is the kicker.
The ambitious mission of man is to assure
with his stumptastic utterance and his deadfinger salute
to the arena flashing like plankton
that the present is not the matter, is prologue,
that the future is secure, that there always will be
another Akron in which we will live
better. This is what we mean by politics. 


in politics power is the capacity
to change the behavior of others
to get the outcomes one wants.
But in order to measure changed behavior
the preferences of the others must be known.
For example, when a man in Akron
is told to “swallow this barrel,
motherfucker,” we must be sure
he does not already prefer
to swallow this barrel, motherfucker. 
Otherwise power is an illusion.


the crux of politics is prolix:
power all sketched out in the excess of languages.
The rest of politics is proxemics:
allegiance to the authority of official distances
between conceptual artillery and actual arteries.


just as in Akron, in the lightless spheres
the once and comfy notion of absoluteness
has been outed over time as tyrannical.
Replaced by situational, amorphous morals.
Spiring irony: absent absolute
all becomes permissible;
orgiastic confetti of cartridges,
sprinkles on the whitest of ice cream.

Thus, to last,

the man adrift in the spheres
remains rootless, maintains the essential
elements of his arsenal.  He must believe
Akron is as Akron is
and was and will always be,
and violence is violence and war
is war and in order to maintain order
over pile upon pile of my dead body
one must do what one must do.
For when in doubt, tautology.
This is what we mean
by crisis of imagination.

Thus, to last,

the other man must never leave
his rusty-ass Akron, must imagine
a method of resistance unknown
to conceptual circles, position himself
vis-a-vis the wordless
vacuity of worlds without gravity.
In order to resist he imagines
a flock of swifts sleek
as a pattern of flying rifles
seeking cover from a squall
anchoring down in a chimney
where their breasts blotch with ash,
where their eyes liquefy from fire,
and where he will be forced, above all else
to salute their crude appeal.

Ted Mathys' photo

Ted Mathys' first book of poetry, Forge, was published by Coffee House Press in 2005. A second collection, Surface to Air, will appear from CHP in 2009. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, his poems have appeared in Fence, Verse, jubilat, Web Conjunctions, Aufgabe, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Ohio, he now bunkers in Brooklyn.

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