JUNE 4—THE DOW CLOSES DOWN 9931 by Susan Briante


My heart drops a note, systolic beats for you,
Jim James sings on the radio, the radio sings:
yesterday the Dow rose, a flood. Outside

not a leaf moves,
I can’t feel a single branch,
let alone the oil in plumes, feathers

of a thousand estuaries. How do you separate
an individual from life? Experience
washes up on the coast, you stand

on the levees, on the barrier islands.
Try to pull tar from feathers
like Whitman try to sympathize

with each drugged wave:
You there, impotent,
loose in the knees

bully sympathy, landlocked,
compromised. Let Al Green sing,
I can make it rain when I want it to.

Note: The italics in the fifth stanza refer to line 993 from Leaves of Grass (1855 ed). The poem also quotes from the My Morning Jacket song, “It Beats 4 U,” as well as Al Green’s cover of “I Can’t Get Close to You.”


This poem comes from the series Ghost Numbers. Last year, I began recording the closing number for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. I let those numbers randomly guide me to texts: plugging them into Project Gutenberg, Bartlett’s quotations, various search engines. I allowed those texts to exert their influence over a series poems much in the same way the closing number of the Dow exerts its influence over our lives. In the case of this particular poem, a line from Leaves of Grass inspired a meditation on both our interconnectedness as well as the impotence of sympathy without action.


Susan Briante is the author of the full-length collections Pioneers in the Study of Motion (Ahsahta Press 2007) and the forthcoming Utopia Minus (March 2011). Her chapbook, The Market is a Parasite that Looks like a Nest, will be published by Dancing Girl Press in the fall.

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