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From Model City.

 It was like reading in a math book about the "Droste
effect," a mathematician's term for infinite regress, and
remembering the old Droste cocoa tin you once owned and loved when you
lived in another city.
 It was like reading further that the "Droste effect," term of
mathematicians, was named after the old red Droste cocoa tins like the
one you once loved and had to give away when you left another city.
It was like remembering how the nurse holding a tray of cocoa on the tin
was depicted in the tin on her tray, in which she held a tray with a tin
depicting her holding a tray with a tin depicting her holding a tray
with a tin, and so on.
It was like wanting to plunge through the infinite regress of nurses
holding trays of cocoa down to the tiniest nurse's tray, where you
will find the tin that you once had to give away when you had to leave
another city you loved. 

 It was like going out to look for a bank in your new
neighborhood and noticing a store called the Umsonst Laden--the
"free store," where nothing costs anything--stacked with piles
of dusty books.
 It was like feeling nervous each time you walk past the Umsonst Laden
to get to your bank, wondering if, the next time you walk by, the
Umsonst Laden will even still be there.
It was like one day turning the corner onto the street of the Umsonst
Laden and hesitating, and then turning back and going down another
street to get to your bank, because the Umsonst Laden makes you too
It was like accidentally walking again down the street of the Umsonst
Laden a year later and seeing a hole where it had been, and sighing: the
torment of idealism is over, the street may now return to the real. 

 It was like going to a dinner party in a foreign city and
listening to the hostess talk about a cherry festival for which, the
previous year, the organizers had had to import the cherries.
 It was like considering the city faced with a cherry festival and no
cherries, counting on the import's glossiness, its guileless slide
into open mouths, on no one being able to tell the difference between
native and foreign cherries.
It was like finding yourself envying the import, the ease with which
goods made in one place are loaded onto airplanes, ships, and trucks and
inserted glossily into other places.
It was like having the sudden desire to expose the festival exalting a
harvest that never happened--why should the foreign import gloss over
the native's failure? you ask. And then cherry tarts were served. 

 It was like walking through a Socialist model city that began
life named for a dictator, that ten years later was hastily renamed for
its industry, and that fifty years later than that is drastically
 It was like learning that the stiffly elegant Stalinist buildings in
the center of the model city were restored via government funds awarded
for blowing up empty tower blocks on the outskirts of the city.
It was like looking at the Stalinist buildings along the model
city's streets--wide, honeyed with sunlight, utterly empty--and
wishing you could have watched the tower blocks in its unseen outskirts
blown to bits.
It was like seeing four violences in the partly blown-up renamed model
city: I. renaming 2. naming 3. destruction 4. creation. 0 we already
know that to build means to lard with ideology--later regretted or no. 

 It was like listening to a citizen of a country that no longer
exists talk about how he was forced to choose a new country, and how he
chose for his new country a language--a foreign language.
 It was like hearing about how he chose a foreign language and set about
to build a home in it, perfecting its accent and then disappearing into
its glottals and labials--for a home is by definition disappearance.
It was like thinking about how you miss disappearing into your own
country, and wondering if a foreign language can also offer
disappearance. He, the citizen, knows home is a construction, however
"natural" a construction.
It was like the citizen knowing that home is a construction exposing our
own constructedness; he chose the most beautiful foreign language and
tried to disappear into its declinations. 

 It was like sitting on the sofa reading a book about a model
city in which the building code decrees that all windows must be
vertical; in this model city, no horizontal windows are allowed.
 It was like reading the explanation in the book that vertical windows
"reflect a standing person" and wondering why windows that
would "reflect a sitting person" would not be allowed.
It was like thinking about the significance of standing versus the
significance of sitting, the ethics of the vertical versus the ethics of
the horizontal, the bad morality of the picture window, dissolute in
It was like putting down the book and looking out one's own
horizontal picture window, in which one may voyeurize ones neighbors,
making a picture out of the neighborhood, but not allowing oneself to be
in it. 

 It was like feeling very uncertain one afternoon outside a
city, a non-model city, like that feeling of uncertainty one gets while
riding in an elevator that opens on both sides. 
 It was like riding in an elevator feeling very uncertain,
wanting the elevator to open on one side only, and to know what side
before the door opens, to know that one side of the elevator is pure
 It was like thinking about the windows in the buildings of the
non-model city, with their ogive shapes and faulty latches, as two-way
openings rendering interior life utterly porous, interior-less.
It was like standing inside an elevator outside a non-model city one
afternoon, disturbed by the excess of apertures and openings, points of
access and multiple entries--by the triumph of flow. 
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Author:Stonecipher, Donna
Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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