Online Exclusive

01.11.21
Hex
One’s opportunities to be unhappy are

Unlimited.     Or limited, but only by

One’s own imagination, which is powerful

But fragile, is defenseless,     but is limited

Only by things unseen.     As Bark Psychosis did it

In music, at the start of the new music, Hex

Itself the start of the new music, after Talk

Talk started it, who after This Heat started it

Who after Public Image Limited, though John

Lydon has since gone bad, or more offensively

Is who he always was, who after Public Image

Limited started it, going     bad, and not to mention

Slint, not to mention the Americans, Lydon

And Morrissey gone, for     or in Americans

America, for Trump or in Los Angeles

Bad, Morrissey,     not even new, was never new

Except his talent was, and Johnny Marr’s,     and always

The dead old art will suffer further life if new

Artists of irresistible ability

Work to extend it,     though such artists must not seek

To extend the     dead old art, or they will fail, but must

Make only what they must     make, and if it aligns

With the dead, the dead will live again in what they make

Low strings,     and keening dissonances when the strings

Ascend together, sirens of the cops inside

Their wooden bodies, their brown bodies. Listen, first

The sirens come from nowhere in the world except

For them, for them the sirens come, announcing nowhere

And then the lights from nowhere round the corner, red

Like an idea of fire, as the drums roll beneath

The strings, a shopping     cart from far from where it rolls

Beneath the city     on a sidewalk in the day

In the middle of the city, roll beneath the city

The strings from which the sirens come, the lights that chase

The sirens down, and live as an idea of fire

And nowhere no guitars.     But space and stillness where

Guitars would be.     Stillness and space and a boy singing

His lone unhappiness in the midst of the raw world

To whom I would escape     from the midst of the raw world

Its now oppressive stillness,     and its windowless

Disease, its timelessness, its timelessness, its nothing’s

Happening in my life,     I don’t have time to be

Dead, where     to run from timelessness     in the windowless

Room, in the room     in which you sealed yourself     at the start

Of the pandemic, hoping for more life, more time

As Bark Psychosis did it     at the start of the new

Music, and made a sound to which one wanders from

Life,     and in which one wanders still, having arrived

One’s opportunities to be unhappy are

Unlimited, though often lately limited

By the end of the world.     But maybe the end of the world is ending

Maybe soon     one will be in small ways sad again

One’s opportunities available to one’s

Attention, Lydon’s to the horseman whinnying

Himself on the fetid, bloating horse, long since afraid

To kick his spurs and pop it,     but he makes an eager

Whinnying, hoping to sound ready. He is ready

To be the last American, whinny and hex

And whinny, hills unfurl beneath him to the hills

Beneath the surface of Lake Erie and the ice

Above the hills     that seems to constitute the lake

From somewhere other than the lake, to be a picture

Of a dead lake, the surface of the thing a picture

Of something else. How far we travel now to be

In the now impossible     presence of things, to which

We ride in light,     that touches and is never touched

All things, by anything, us, even in the light

How far we travel we have traveled to, to watch

The lake unmoving from the parking lot, approaching

The moment, it, the moment     was already in

Our minds accomplished, the long visionary gaze

Across the ice, in the midst of which, the gaze, the ice

Infinite, has no midst, no middle, but is made

Of middles echoing,     in the midst of the gaze, the moment

Through which, the visionary moment, we will leave

Our bodies, gazing, or at least our minds, for once

Won’t trouble what we see, such peace accomplished, we

Have known our peace accomplished     on the drive to the lake

And by the time we reach the lake, we’ve turned around

Already, in our minds, such peace accomplished and

Retreated from, except we park, except we gaze

At the white expanse, and sigh, not knowing which emotion

Demands the sigh, and the sigh leaves us, staggering

A butterfly, our frozen breath, as butterflies

Have staggered, you have watched them, seemed uncertain where

To land, upon which flower, you’ve watched a butterfly

Choosing,     or if it wasn’t choosing, still it seemed

To choose     a flower patterned like itself, our breath

Escaping in the haze of its occasion, you

Watch yours disintegrate and do not recognize

Yourself.     But I am watching and I see you breathing

And watching     I can’t see beneath the picture of

Awe on your face, the image of the visionary

Moment, and even if it isn’t happening

Beneath the image, I forgive myself for feeling

Nothing, no visionary moment, seeing yours

And the hills roll beneath the surface of the lake

As Mogwai did it, no     singing but in guitars

And sometimes human voices singing, keyboards sometimes

In 1997, three years after Hex

At the start of the new music, each guitar a wall

And hammer, both. If     we forgave ourselves for making

What we have made, we would destroy what we have made

Before we’d let ourselves enjoy it, no, we won’t

Release ourselves to joy with our forgiveness, never

And so we build a tower from the top of which

We hope to reach forgiveness.     Opportunities

For one to be unhappy are unlimited

A pitch of silence in the everyday unsounding

One’s opportunities     belong to one, but rogue

Unhappinesses claim their midsts in a consuming

Infinity that even now approaches yours

As Enya did it, though you didn’t notice.     Listen

The songs are hits, but listening, the sure connections

Between all things become long clouds.     America

The sure connections fray in clouds at the Capitol

And those who scream they want you back have never seen you

And wouldn’t recognize you if you came,     and those

Who lie face down on the floor in the chamber see the floor

Only. The woman     on the other side of the door

Wide-eyed and bleeding, sees no metaphors. O music

Where have you fled? O music, who will make you new
 

Shane McCrae's most recent books are Sometimes I Never Suffered and The Gilded Auction Block, both published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In 2021, the Cleveland State University Poetry Center will release an expanded edition of his first book, Mule, with an introduction by Victoria Chang. McCrae has received an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Whiting Writer's Award. He lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.