#Poetry Wed: “The Abstract Humanities” by Sandra Simonds

On August 14th, 1971, when they arrest Justin Smith on Rose St.,
his neighbors don’t know he’s a subject
in the Stanford Prison experiment, and Justin himself
doesn’t know that within 36 hours of dunking his head
into that fake cop car that he will have a mental breakdown
even though he keeps telling himself “This isn’t real.”

Do not write “luminous glyphs” for it is
overly Romanic. Do not write
a love poem to Karl Marx, for you might lose your job.
Do not talk about compassion, for this is not
a temple. Do not use the word “tender,”
for this is art and art must be
cold like money or a fish. Do not
say you’re a Jew,
for you never know who is reading.

It has been fifteen years since my mother
tried to kill herself. There is no way
into the abstract
humanities. In the experiment, Todd
beats Justin. You can only follow
me so far, but when we get to the river, Horatio,
you will not be able to cross through my
particular hourglass…

Read the rest of the poem at The Seneca Review (pdf)

Sandra Simonds Official Site