Luis Camnitzer, “Living Room (Sala de estar)” (1968) (detail), vinyl, on view in Home—So Different, So Appealing at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 2017 (photo by Elisa Wouk Almino/Hyperallergic)

The Strategist


The strategist loves one thing and that is
rage, how it looks

steaming out of his own field.
Warfare doesn’t hurt anymore, it employs,

and tactics, he says, are places
between two hills. Winds take turns.

Meaning is empty. Our book is people.
It warrants the cost

which is perform, which is tear
open as though addressed by a god—

an envelope he tears
and the strategist paints the god’s

name gold, but a name doesn’t know
words are chains of tiny cages.


The campaign suggests a place
where bodies cleave,

each part more or less insurable
according to its usefulness or

its ruthlessness when presented as a symbol.
A fist, a closed wage, a foot, a pride,

a dilated eye, a room adjacent, a womb
open to a fingered treatise

and through the slit in the curtain
we can almost vote. And he, he

could be a well’s mouth, hell
he knocked down doors to carve a passage—

it was their choice to
downshift to language.


I’m sorry, the strategist says, the executive
will take the job only

if someone as cruel as a bag of saline
fucks right here on the hot red rock.

In the window at the top of the world,
an heiress sharpens the blades of irrelevance

on the co-founder’s glacial reform
and the core expresses grave concern

for the torture of electrical components.
Words boiled alive cut the moon.

The decade erodes like a gossip column.
Sick centuries whisper

into the dark ears of parks where
votive candles in the memory of arc.


And the strategist loves one thing, and that is
the main office, its volcanic

locker under stars.
The untied tongue at the edge of garbage

where a delegation of minor royals
eclipses the torrent—

this craft, the method of
mines laid in their own path.

*   *   *

Jasmine Dreame Wagner is the author of On a Clear Day (Ahsahta Press), a collection of lyric essays and poems called “a capacious book of traveller’s observations, cultural criticism, and quarter-life-crisis notes” by Stephanie Burt at the New Yorker and “a radical cultural anthropology of the wild time we’re living in” by Iris Cushing at Hyperallergic. She is also the author of Rings (Kelsey Street Press) and six chapbooks. Wagner’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Beloit Poetry Journal, BOMB Magazine, Colorado Review, Fence, Guernica, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, and in The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta Press).

Wendy Xu is the author of the poetry collections Phrasis (Fence, 2017), winner of the 2016 Ottoline Prize, and You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). The recipient of a Ruth...