Three Poems by Jennifer Nelson

(from the quartet “Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism [trans. Talcott Parsons]”)

The Desperate Earth

If any object can be found to which this term [spirit of capitalism] can be applied with any understandable meaning, it can only be an historical individual, i.e. a complex of elements associated in historical reality which we unite into a conceptual whole from the standpoint of their cultural significance.

I had many dreams after finishing the whiskey
and forgot them all once they made me sober
a quiet tower the small
plant from K-Sue
blooming straight up and indifferent to Manhattan
where the sun comes from each afternoon
who she asked is a native and the answer
hurt me
a series
of embedded dreams embodied
in one body after another the toylike
breasts of the nude
grow from my left ankle
where drapery ends in the bust of a merchant
from my hand a head mixing an ancient
orator and satyr and highest
rising from my back
a young man museologically a youth
anointing my nude with Mary Magdalene’s can
the merchant’s
beard in my hair
I am interested in the pornographic
loinscrap I wear as Dürer’s
sogenannter Desperate Man
one of only three etchings
only my clothing
in waking life
marks my nativity
which is flexible
in Queens my shapely
sturdy legs draw whistles for themselves
I think Dürer’s hands must have wanted to etch
to try it and the pleasure
was not sufficiently interesting
so all we have is this
series of hangovers
series of possible persons in a bodily
relation the torment
of the desperate man is the possibility
of being the nude, the merchant,
the politician as satyr, youth, no, the presence
of that possibility, the unrelenting
presence of possibly someone else as self
oneself as more than accident of birth
I think of K-Sue in the western canyons
of this country
the United States
a nativity creche of some wild west
would feature only one person
why not her
what am I wearing anyway
what is she wearing
I love her for trying to wear the Earth
as all possible habitable planets
today I will try to wear the Earth
as all possible habitable planets


(from the quartet “Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism [trans. Talcott Parsons]”)

Melencolia II

[T]he feeling was never quite overcome, that activity directed to acquisition for its own sake was at bottom a pudendum which was to be tolerated only because of the unalterable necessities of life in this world.

now and then I measure fertility
with a soft tape measure I bought
to measure fertility
in terms of horizontal
sections of my body
in the last dream blisters
appeared on one side of my vagina
but I didn’t look inside
I woke to the bus
Georg Simmel totally called it
the city replaces my presence
but he got the valence wrong
it is soothing as a river
I have never bathed in a river
I think of my body as a hulking
force for abstraction
thus cannot admire Cézanne’s bathers
except as staging my donation
of my body to modern art
which I don’t want to do
I do not want to stand against the river
I want to take the pressure off
being here, let’s be honest
my righteous life has been leaving the note
admittedly a happy human note
this is what I think the putto is doing
making something human
in Dürer’s Melencolia I
sitting on a millstone
some say comes from Plato
I first learned it from Cézanne
in the 1890s, the perfect
palette and a possible
future in the colors
around a blankish millstone, I still value
that perfect naiveté
I remember the Barnes Foundation
Merion Pennsylvania
Harry made us the reservation
he looks the same today
I was a kid
with only a couple years of museums
I thought art was not about money
I thought art history was not for the rich
so there I started
scribbling away, post-human
attribute of something greater
and sadder, gigantic Melencolia
industrially girdled and grumpy she can’t
compass her lap nor its required
drapery, meanwhile me
a balding baby, independent
but with wings related to her wings
gathered sleeves and ankle pudge
recalling her bulk’s bulge and her gown
and unlike her
productive: that’s me
I am just a sidekick
I am finally the sidekick
of someone worthy of me


Lovers Don’t Read Kafka

I’m too busy to do anything but be in love
attempting meditation on a train and all
I got was a hot pink line
many possible frictions of metal on metal
it’s like the only metaphors we have for things’
coming together are symphonies and fucking
we were at Storm King
Sculpture Center
the water
was eating your shoes
underneath a gong in its great metal chamber
a puddle shook independently
gonggg I want to fuck a symphony
into you gonggg
gongg gongg gongg gongggg
my body muscular
and round as a drive-thru
the simultaneous power and disconnect
of blooming weeds
I want to give these flowers
the flowers of the Annunciation
to you
the whole room
a red canopy
a dark wood bed
a fire
a fan
since you’re ready to read poetry
Kafka said the Messiah
had already arrived
in paradise one cannot read Kafka
I have never read Kafka
the supervirginal color is blue
you must believe
all women and brown folk
on the inside are blue
and the poem will give you a brown vagina
and this blue room
let’s all be alone in the same blue room
at the same time
let’s close our eyes
let’s choose the afterimage
a puddle yes
no one cleans in paradise

Story Arc

“some say he lit women / ablaze as a source of light”

Love Jones

“They’re about to miss each other / again.”