Hermann Broch’s Epistle to his Public

That episode between the scenes

is where we begin, rustling

in our seats, uncomfortably

twisting our programs, tearing slick

triangular wedges of paper with our teeth.


Recollect: a solitary figure, shambling

amidst gray stone, a miasmatic ascension

that is ridden by ghosts; a wrestling match in a shallow grave

wherein his people lay crumbled and twisted,

having been denied knowledge of their ultimate fate.


Be aware then, that this figure

has washed his hands of the contiguous past,

has walked between isolating walls

until all of the darkness is safely behind,

and the road in front is newly paved.


Now he stands, a kind of singularity

upon the stage. The curtains are drawn.

The notes he has sung and will sing

are characterized by an arrogant complexity.

Even as we listen, it is going to change.


New questions evolve almost as quickly

as they are asked. To what extent is the audience

a participant? When the lone and melancholy

note finally stops, shall we be made aware

as to when to clap? or to wait for more?


There is a curious etiquette involved.

Training is requisite. An almost separate

species, we sit in the world’s theater,

absorbing this very special equation for reality.

Call it an ostensible truth; call it a quantification of existence.


He knows this too; waves to us,

fully aware that we are symbiotic.

No artist can function without his audience.

Think of the gladiator, of the Emperor Commodus:

flinging net and trident, the rhythm of battle.


Thus each man finds his arena,

becomes the Hercules of his own imagination.

How do you live otherwise, crumpled

into a ball, twisted like a skein of threads,

a wildly woven patchwork of colors and texture?


Imagine the various manifestations

of this megalomania, a monody of sound,

An Ide enshrined, a gravitational mirror: in darkness!–out photons!

blazing in all directions, an act of auditory creation.

But what a fantasy, that love could so conquer!


Instead the surfaces of the universe

crackle beneath us, a featureless

jigsaw of eggshells, the despair

of philosophers. Sunk in the entropy

of values and cognition, it is an inconceivable reconstruction.


O where do you commence

a journey into immensity:

in the underworld? side by side

with Dante? guiding the hand

of Virgil? downwards and upwards to dissolution?


Lacking friends, family, compatriots,

he cranks back the curtain without assistance.

Observe, my children, the ionization

of the elements. It is a goose-step

into a world of roastings and human sacrifice.


He holds on to the curtain’s tassel, smiles

like Punchinello, tries to observe

the audience’s reaction in the darkness.

You fools. Do something. Laugh

at me. Vomit. Piss in my direction.


That was prologue, set somewhere in the middle

world. After the chiding, the bitterness, the ejaculatory

phrases, the lights were turned on

permitting the audience to evaluate

themselves and each other. The principals mingled.


Perfumed petals of paper, painted

to resemble flowers, snow gently

between the chandeliers, dazzle

the spectators. They shout, “Author, author”.

But incognito, he wanders. Changes faces each instant.


That which cannot be said aloud

must be borne in silence. Try

as you may, feet cannot be crossed

indefinitely. It is impossible to return

spilled ink to its container. Some stains are forever.


Thus the path between the old world

and the new is irrevocable.

Exhausted, fingers in carpo-pedal spasm,

he knows he is Ahasuerus, catholicized,

a new fore-skin grafted to his penis.


So we live in deception; dream

of self-fulfillment: create a science

of mass psychology, build arcane bridges

of hope and happiness across the ocean.

But if you admit to satisfaction, you die on the instant.


Then, in the afterworld, a jungle

of free spirits intermingle. Words

are the tapestry wherein loneliness

is negated. Atoms fall together. There is a reincarnation

of instinct, and like animals, we howl at the moonlight.


O Audience! Be Now Thou Participants! Observe

as the Promethean monster gets chained

to a rock of his own creation. Too soon

he’ll call for the birds, and be eaten.

Take Pen! Wield your Erasers! Only you can save him.