Issue 19




A Poem of Force


Jeremy Biles



for David Tracy





...No other comfort

Will remain, when you have encountered your death-heavy fate,

Only grief, only sorrow.

—Homer, The Iliad





it is that x

that turns anybody

who is subjected to it

into a thing,

a compromise

between a man

and a corpse.



is as pitiless

to the man

who possesses it

as it is

to its victims—

the first

it intoxicates,

the second

it crushes.


We are only

geometricians of matter—

the mind

is completely absorbed

in doing itself


a picture of

uniform horror.



is the sole hero,

nobody really

possesses it;

there is not

a single man

who does not have

to bow his neck

to force.


Those who use it

and those who

endure it

are turned

to stone,

they become

deaf and dumb.


This reality

is hard,

much too hard

to be borne.

Words of reason


into the void.


Here, surely,

is death,

death strung out

over a whole


the aspect of



Here, surely,

is life,

life that death


before abolishing—

an extreme and tragic



To castrate yourself

of yearning,

to respect life

in somebody else,


a heartbreaking exertion,

impossible in logic,


except in flashes.


The soul awakens then,

to live

for an instant


and be lost

almost at once,

the crowning grace

of war.


Incurable bitterness

continually makes itself


no reticence

veils the step

from life

to death.


Yet never

does the bitterness

drop into lamentation.

It has no room

for anything

but courage

and love.


This poem,

not made

to live


a thing,

is a miracle

on loan

from fate.


In the end,

this poem


from the mind,

for thought

cannot journey

through time

without meeting

death on the way.


In the end,

the very idea

of wanting to escape

the business

of killing and dying



Perhaps all men,

by the very act

of being born,

are destined

to suffer


Victory is

a transitory thing—


is the sole hero.


Come, friend,

you too must die.










Jeremy Biles lives in Chicago, where he teaches courses in philosophy, religion, and art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  He is the author of Ecce Monstrum: Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form (Fordham University Press, 2007).  His essays, fiction, and reviews have appeared in such places as the Chicago Review, Culture, Theory and Critique, Rain Taxi and Snow Monkey, as well as in catalogues for the Hyde Park Art Center, where he has also done curatorial work.  He is currently co-editing a volume entitled Negative Ecstasies: Georges Bataille and the Study of Religion (Fordham University Press, forthcoming Spring 2015). 



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