Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rachel Loden's "The Toy Box of My Intentions"

From her brilliant Dick of the Dead, Rachel Loden's meditation on "intention," a word with deep philosophical implications in the Western ethical and legal traditions, strikes out against the putative rationality of law itself. In each section, Loden proposes a situation in which those who control or know their "intention" exert it perilously and devastatingly against those whose must swallow others'.

(It has always struck me as strange that our law considers "intention" to be part of how one determines the seriousness of a crime; perhaps there is no way around it, but such thinking involves a lot of retrospection not always accessible at the time).

In any case, George Bush (and his elder, Tricky Dick) make their entry into this poem, with their occasional bombings of wedding parties (section 4), and the unfortunate (unintentional?) packaging of emergency airlifted food--which resembled precisely the yellow bits of cluster bombs (section 5). What makes this poem more than a mere protest is how she includes the enigmatic first section, which links an unknown "she" to these distant victims (is she a protestor hauled off to jail, or a random criminal?), and the third section, in which she identifies with those whom G-d (one of the names of God in Hebrew) has made to swallow the nails of intention.

"The Toy Box of My Intentions"


So many of them strewn about!
Intention is what the prisoner understands

as she hurtles through Manhattan
with her jailer—

and he too, leaning on his steering wheel,
separated from his dazed and reeling captive

by a wire mesh grill, knows
his way along the shining grid of streets

just as he knows
the grander moral map of his intentions.


Did you say intention?
Intention that the wall of red-brown mud feels

as it rolls over a darkened Panabajan village,
or that a song knows

when it hears itself on television,
trying to die amidst the thousand tapping feet?


O O O O everything
happens for a reason

Elah Sh'maya V'Arah
never gives us more nails than we can scarf down

at one
fairly elegant sitting


Intention, you toy!
The boy-president plays with you

whenever, somewhere in the world,
a wedding party

is in sudden need of slaughtering;
and when the one-way holiday makers

light up their jet-fuel cigarettes
and sift down to earth in all their purity

intention smears them extravagantly
with the dust of Jews and women.


Augh, so much lovely damned intention!
When the stars come out

loose hunks of the burning stuff
fall off the mental dirigible

as it dreamily plummets down
and all the while sticky

spider-threads and ribbons tie me
up in gaily festooned packages,

packages which intention
gallantly wrestles to the ground.

(originally published in epr, now in Dick of the Dead)

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