hobart logo

September 7, 2018 Poetry

Empire Empire

Catherine Chen

Empire Empire photo

To be led by the engine of empire. Through time. Through
tunnels. Through meticulous care, the care of a rat who says
to me, “You will throw your faith into my structure” and I have
no choice but to agree. I will have faith. I will give myself to the
structure. For now, I say, but rarely do structures relinquish
you. In fact they never do. This is the crux of empire, the
relentless downpour of its tyranny. The torrent of intimacy. The
structure knows how you take your coffee, knows how you sleep
and who you sleep with / wants to cozy up with you & go
for Sunday brunch. You musn’t let them in. But it’s too late. I
already have. I did it on good faith when none existed—I did it
because I was curious because I could because I wanted the
exposure. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It simply
rewired the cat’s nature and replaced curiosity with despair. I
keep saying despair. That is how it feels being artist-in-
residence in your body. Poor plumbing, poor despair that
lingers in the pit of your stomach. They are the rumbling you hear
even when you believe you are content. They want an invite
and you must turn down this request. My body cannot
take [it] [I KEEP SAYING IT LIKE A COWARD] any longer,
yet I will be the laughingstock if I do not continue. I’ll be
starved out and abandoned. They will seek nightcaps with other
younger willing talent who are caught up in the Church of
Good Faith. The cycle does not know how to end, it knows only
how to reproduce itself ad infinitum. It does not “start over.”
They are too smart to drunk text an ex. Am I that ex? We
ignore one another but I still live under weights of a wing
crushed indifferently. The weight of feeling, the one that pushes you
against a wall, shows you up at night, steals your lunch
money. This is how I know they will return for me & I laugh. I’m
psychologically held down by my debts but I laugh anyway. It
seems right. I laugh out of despair, out of desire, out of sight.
Located in our periphery, I can laugh it off however I can
think up. Sounds lightweight; it begins in the nasal area so it
lacks the full-body strength of those notes of laughter that
begin in the chest. My nasal laughter contains me. Invigorates
me. Enters space. Towards being unpleasant. You hate my
dinner table manners. Awash in the glow of my heathen
behaviors, I slowly forget the structure. One day I cough up its
half-baked excuses, which looks a lot like a dinner party hostess’s
insecurities. One day I cough up the break-up letter I don’t
remember writing. It begins, “I cannot...”


image: Joe Lingeman