This is an excerpt from the middle of a longer poem. The full poem is in Moschovakis’s forthcoming book, They and We Will Get Into Trouble for This (Coffee House Press, 2016).
The government [should] subsidize struggling museums, theaters, and artists.
I [am] troubled by the eroding distinction between entertainment and marketing.
Protesters cause [more] good than harm.
A person [cannot] be truly spiritual without regularly attending church or
Something like [the theory of natural selection] explains why some people are
If countries are unwilling to cooperate with our military plans, we should treat
them as [enemies].
I feel guilty when I shop at a large national chain.
Social justice should be the foundation of any economic system.
People shouldn’t be allowed to have children they can’t provide for.
I would defend my property with lethal force.
The world would be better if there were no huge corporations.
Professional athletes are paid too much money.
The separation of church and state has demoralized our society.
The ‘Word of God’ exists only as human beings interpret it.
We need stronger laws protecting the environment.
I would feel better if there were video cameras on most street corners.
It should be legal for consenting adults to challenge each other to a duel.
I took a break from my condition to start translating a novel — a
story about neo-Nazis in Paris, France — it’s set in the late
’90s, when I was living in Paris — the protagonist and I lived
on the very same street — sometimes a place moves to the
center of a life — the author of the book is politically on the
left — my father lived through the occupations of Athens —
three times his home was taken over by soldiers — the novel
makes an argument about slippage at the extremes — how it’s
possible to move effortlessly between far left and far right — it
offers as an example one Jacques Doriot — communist mayor
in the ’30s of Saint-Denis — a suburb of Paris at its northern
fringe — my father didn’t talk about that part of his childhood
— I never could be sure that my impression of it was real —
there was one story he liked to tell about that time — the story
of Apostolos Santas, aka Lakis — who scaled the Acropolis
in April of ’41 — tore down the Nazi flag and put nothing in its
place — a symbolic act for which he was sentenced to death in
absentia — Jacques Doriot turned fascist in 1936 — he wore
the SS uniform into his grave — Saint-Denis hosts a campus
of the University of Paris — in 1991 I took some classes there
— the students it attracted were the self-described fringe —
the graffiti on the walls has been painted over since then — I
signed up for a class with a man named Vuarnet — the title of
the class was Philosophy and Art — the name of the professor
was spelled like the sunglasses — at the time you could smoke
and drink beer in the classroom — Vuarnet kept his inside a
brown paper bag — Apostolos Santas did not act alone —
he captured the flag with Manolis Glezos — who later led the
Coalition of the Radical Left — Apostolos died in 2011 —
a recipient of medals from the Greek state — Manolis was
arrested by Athens riot police — as recently as October of
2012 — when I was at Saint-Denis I kept a low profile —
Desert Storm was in force and I was still an American — I
marched for peace and wages with the thousands in the streets
— but nothing brought them out like the loss of March
the second — Lucien Ginsburg, the French-Ukranian who’d
changed his name to Serge — sometimes a voice moves the
center to a halt — when Lucien was a boy he wore the yellow
star — when he tried to be a singer he was mocked for his
nose — in the years that followed he moved as if inevitably
toward the center — in ’75 he made an album that satirized
the Nazis — there’s something I haven’t told you that has to
do with my condition — the night Serge Gainsbourg
died I heard all of Paris weeping — when I cry I cry for these
If someone is crying, you [Avert your eyes]
If you think someone’s ugly, you [Tank top and shorts]
If someone picks up a lost purse, you [Tell them that you trust everyone]
If your friend asks you who you trust the most, you [Only if the situation
If you are going to church, you wear [10–15 times]
If you are very religious, and someone who follows a different religion
preaches to you, you [ ]
In average, how often do you lie a day?
Would you tell a white lie to make someone feel better?
What saying would you say you most often follow?
Which of the following is the correct definition of ‘moral’?
My condition is rare but it still affects thousands — it’s easy to feel
like I’m being punished by god — not believing in god can
have damaging consequences — the source of punishment
tends to revert to the self — self-punishment is the base of
many social dynamics — a sense of conscience can be wielded
from within or without — the Gypsies hold a Kantian belief
about ethics — this according to the European who spent his
youth among them — wherein stealing is judged permissible
according to intent — it is possible that I can make peace
with my condition — if I can convince myself its intent is
benign — there’s a mediation technique called nonviolent
communication mm conventionally known as NVC — I try to
use it in relation to my desire to be cured — the goal is to
do away with judgments of value — and focus on everyone’s
needs being met — the relation of the ‘Gypsy code’ to Kant is
as follows — for Kant a right action is spoiled by impure intent
— this aligns well with the NVC model — in which an act of
generosity is immediately voided — if revealed to be spurred
by resentment or guilt — for the boy’s Gypsies, stealing was
morally neutral — as long as nobody’s needs were denied —
take one chicken from the farmer but not the whole coop —
there are many ways to think about dessert — this neutrality
was voided if greed entered the picture — NVC holds a broad
understanding of violence — it would encompass even my own
relation to my condition — my conscience tells me empathy
for the self is undeserved — the website contains an inventory
of needs — which are neatly divided into seven subsections
— that begin with connection and end with meaning — this
positioning of meaning calls out my condition — my needs
are out of date