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Lake Michigan, Scene 7

how much longer can I stand on this beach

how much longer can I write through the sand on this beach

how much longer can I watch them bury my friends on this beach

they bury the dogs on the beach

they buy the bones on the beach

they bury the bodies the city does not want to absorb and when the bodies are asked to be re-absorbed their prayers fall

they fall and they fall and there is nowhere for them to land so they fall and as the prayers fall there are images projected in the outline of the horizon

the authoritative bodies are projecting the final prayers of the falling bodies from the high rises on the coast of lake michigan

they project the images of the bodies falling out of the high rises   the images of the children watching their parents falling out of them   the images of the Medicare patients falling out of them

i am going to retire in 5 years says the overseer of the Medicare patients who are falling out of the building

he needs incentives to stab them more thoroughly in the heart (performance-based funding)

he needs state and national policies to facilitate the more efficient stabbing of the Medicare patients in the heart

there is no need to notify the family of the falling bodies

the authoritative bodies and the police have systems in place so that the families of the falling bodies will never be surprised

on lake michigan they watch they the bodies of their brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers falling

can you find an affordable price point asks the overseer of Medicare

if you can’t find an affordable price point the problem is you might fall out of a tree   you might find yourself dangling from a pole   you might find yourself buried in the sand   the emperor of privatization might personally come to nibble on your bones   he might personally lick up your skin or perhaps he will send an assistant

the prison camp is called Slash and Burn and it is not figurative it is a place where the bodies are slashed and burned

they splash the bodies with acid   they beat them in the proper places   they kick them in the ribs the face the head   they cash in on the prisoners when their body parts appreciate over time

the prison guards make camp fires

they film the prisoners sitting around the camp fires roasting hot dogs and marshmallows

they force the prisoners to sing songs

the prisoners sing thank you thank you for life thank you for life

they sing about the purple mountains and they sing about things that gleam in the night

the mist is clearing over lake michigan and as the mist clears we see the first boatmen coming in from the horizon

the tug boats are here and they are moving towards the beach

they have messages to give to the prisoners but they will not make it past the prison ships off the coast of lake michigan

there are too many bodies crammed into the prison ships

there are too many young bodies who had nowhere to go once their schools were privatized in the rotten carcass economy

they are forced to have a good time and from where we stand on the beach we can hear the music on the ship

we can hear the prisoners who are forced to sing and be happy

nasty nasty boys don’t mean a thing

nastyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy boys
don’t mean a thing
all you nasty boys don’t mean a thing to me

and the bodies on the ship dance

they are forced to be happy and they are filmed as they dancing so that the international observers will think they are loved

and the authoritative bodies and the police officers say to the dancing bodies on the ship

show the world you love each other

and the prisoners are filmed trying to love each other

and we watch them from our seats on the beach

we watch their love being projected onto the buildings on the coast of lake michigan

and they beat us and they pay us and they love us



Lake Michigan, Scene 9

The brown, the beige, the white bodies are zigzagging through the streets carrying televisions

They carry bats

They carry video cameras

They carry shoes

The bodies are piling up on the sidewalk in front of a building with steel bars in its windows

Behind the bars a Mexican or Central American man is screaming: let me out let me out

Outside the bars, above him and to the right, a shovel is being jammed through a window

Then there are sirens and the bodies scatter as the police cars park

The police officers wear white helmets and they walk confidently towards the scene of destruction

There are shards of glass on the sun-soaked sidewalk

The shadows of the structures form a long ladder on the ground

The camera follows the police towards the building being looted

The men scamper down the stairs

Their shirts are off and they jump over fences

Get out of here get out, the police officer says to a black man in a green t-shirt

The police officer looks into the broken building

He holds a club

He turns towards the street

He has a mustache and sunglasses and he is balding (no hat, no helmet)

He turns back towards the building and looks inside of it

Come out of there, he yells, come out of there motherfucker

The camera shifts to a white kid also with his shirt off

His light blue jeans sit right below his waist, just low enough to reveal the elastic of his boxers

He stops and looks back at the site of the resistance

He holds his hands up in the air and whoops with satisfaction then he takes off running

Here is the face of the police officer who cannot catch him

The cop spins back towards the broken buildings

There are two other officers walking in his direction, scouting the scene for more bodies

The wood from the broken building

The raw bones of the broken building

The police officers huddle for a moment

Let’s go, move it back one yells

Here is a bus

Here is smoke over a white van, over streetlights, over electrical wires

The cars drive into monstrous blobs of charcoal-colored smoke in front of the high rises on the beach

The mass of smoke moves from left to right and it looks like the cars will drive into it as if it were a tunnel

The cars slow down as they approach the incredible cloud of smoke

Where are the cars going, how will they drive through the smoke

The mass of smoke stops them and the camera shifts to a different scene

Here is a man in a blue shirt running down the street with a large cardboard box on his shoulder

We are four minutes into the riot and we see the orange flames in the background

In the foreground the fire swirls wildly

An old green pickup truck pulls out of a parking lot that appears to be connected to a building on fire

The truck takes a left and gets stuck behind an eggplant-colored van

There are more men running with cardboard boxes on their shoulders

We are now moving down the highway

The streetcars, the fire trucks, the alarms

A man on the second floor of a shop throws a cardboard box out the window

The scene shifts and in the foreground the traffic moves normally

But just a street behind the traffic there is the fire, a beast consuming the city

There is a performance of walking past the fire and pretending it is normal

A swagger in the movement of the young men with loose white t-shirts

The scene shifts

The bodies scatter again and we watch the firefighters spray the flames

This is not the type of fire that will die with any rapidity but the firefighter in focus appears to be calm as he sprays the building, waving the hose around so as to hit different segments of flame

The scene shifts to a conversation between a white female police officer and a black man who appears to be in his mid-40s

The police officer is holding a rifle in her left hand

She is wearing a blue helmet and a braided ponytail falls out of it

The camera is behind her

We do not see her face
They are in a parking lot

The golden arches of McDonalds can be seen in the background

The police officer is talking to this man who is wearing a straw hat and bright blue pants

He is holding a small camera and is arguing with the police officer who has apparently told him that he cannot go past because he does not have a {media}pass

The man questions her, he probes, he’s astounded

He says: and that guy taking pictures with his cell phone—he’s got a pass?

Yes he’s got a pass, the police officer says, holding her rifle up in the air

The long rifle stands parallel to the man she is arguing with

His elbow touches the side of his chest

His palms face up in a gesture that reminds me of one of those Caravaggio paintings of the Apostles asking a question of Christ

He’s got a pass?

Dude over there with a cell phone and he’s got a pass

Sir, the man with the straw hat says, addressing who I thought was a female police officer

But as the camera approaches I now see that the police officer I thought was a woman is actually a man

There is no ponytail (perhaps all I saw was a shadow)

The parking lot they are standing in is drenched and filled with debris

There are just a few cars parked and in the background there are some single-story storefronts

The police officer and the man are debating, walking stage left

The man with the straw hat speaks beyond the police officer and to the guy taking pictures with his cell phone who cannot be seen on screen

Excuse me, yells the guy with the straw hat, do you have a pass

The police officer and the man with the straw hat are walking slowly in the direction of more parked cars

Another police officer is standing, arms folded near the entrance to the lot

Only media sir, he says to the man with the straw hat

And the man with the straw hat says, I’m media too

The scene shifts to a long shot along a graffitied wall and then back to the raging charcoal-colored flames swirling over and through the buildings

The firefighter calmly waves his hose at the flaming beast

A car drives by and on its radio we hear a clip of a call-in program with a storekeeper complaining about how the police did not intervene on his behalf when the so-called rioters destroyed his business

In the background the flames have destroyed a shoe store

The brand names of the shoes on signs are withering away in flames

There is now incredible footage of a firefighter sitting on the pavement with a hose between his legs aiming at flames in a building 30 or 40 feet away from him

Flames burst out of the building as glass explodes from the windows


Daniel Borzutzky is the author of The Performance of Becoming Human, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry. His other books and chapbooks include In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (2015), Bedtime Stories for the End of the World! (2015), Data Bodies (2013), The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011), and The Ecstasy of Capitulation (2007). He has translated Galo Ghilgliotto’s Valdivia (2016); Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks (2015) and Song for his Disappeared Love (2010); and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl (2008). His work has been supported by the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pen/Heim Translation Fund. He lives in Chicago.