(an essay on choosing a new camera)

– Brenda Hillman –


A few years before Occupy, some friends & i visited a panel on war & money. They were telling lies on the panel so we shouted, then they threw us out. Their publicist chased us, hitting D with her fists, & smashed my camera on my head.  We stood outside waiting to settle the matter. A man in a good suit came out to the sidewalk. He had watery blue eyes. I said, i won’t press charges if your Foundation regrets the assault & pays me for the camera. He said, We won’t turn you over to the Attorney General if you get off the premises. i said, This is a public sidewalk & there is no Attorney General (Gonzales had resigned some weeks before). The man said, You people are endangering the country with your tactics. I said, You people are endangering the world with your corporate wars. He said, I am a veteran of two wars. i forget how Jesus came up. i said, Jesus opposed killing human beings. The man said, God knows some wars are necessary. i said, i didn’t say God, i said Jesus. The Capital Hill cops argued with D who wouldn’t give her name. D is calm & tall as the Statue of Liberty whereas i am a short Irish hothead. The man & i have reached our limit. Now should be the moment when we recognize each other’s humanity but we each think the other will destroy the world. This is where poetry can be helpful. Poetry goes past the limit. It makes extra helpful nerves between realities. Threads float from the man’s tweed coat & weave a pink flag of no nation. Ancestors circle Capitol Hill in a braid, including Ginsberg & Blake. They build small fires around the city. Reinforcements are not far away. D & i can’t see the Occupy yet but we feel there must be a future. Tomorrow we’ll go back to our jobs. Crows are writing poems no one can read aw aw aw aw. i think of the man as a child, full of tiny expensive longings, pushing toy trucks over the ant-hills at his home. Boom, he says, harming no one. He had joy once. Now on the sidewalk he wants to kill us. The longer we can keep him busy, the more of his money we can waste. He hands me $279 in cash. Use your imagination, my mother used to say, meaning, you don’t have to use it, you are in it.