The Devouring Economy of Nature

By Daniel Borzutzky

Let’s begin at the end, she says.

The best way to end a sentence is with the word “blank.”

It is midnight and I am lonely and your blank is the blank of my blank.

Don’t psychoanalyze me all the time, he says to himself. Just because I can’t get it up doesn’t mean I have unresolved issues about my parents taking me as a child to an execution on a Sunday afternoon in August.

In fear he trampled over a basket of delicious food that belonged to some neighbors — fellow spectators at the execution — and years later when he is in bed with his wife, having erectile issues, he keeps remembering the basket of food he tripped over.

He ran through the party that was thrown to celebrate the hanging of the other body; he trampled cold chicken and biscuits.


He ran through the silhouettes of the hanging bodies.


He possessed the fortitude needed to refuse to begin another act of language.

I refuse to write the middle of the story.

There is water everywhere.

There is a flood on my street and I am sleeping in a body that is much too big for my bed.

In fact I am sleeping in a bed that is much too big for my house.

The flood has changed the proportions (house>bed>body) or at least my perception of the proportions.

I am incapable of thinking outside of scenes.

Which means I am incapable of thinking outside of images.

Did you hear the one about the immigrant laborer who was run over by the tractor. In his pocket was a photograph of his cousin Ewa, a 13-year-old in a refugee camp in another country. As the tractor ran him over, he kept shouting to his fellow workers. Please, somebody, marry Ewa. Somebody. Marry. Ewa!

And to mourn the death of the mutilated workers the children sang a song called “Other People’s Bodies.”

They sang it to the tune of a current popular song.

There was a dance routine that involved hand motions and little hops and the thrusting of booties in and out.

And as the song developed, the progression of the data became increasingly relevant for as the children sang they slowly began to understand that they would never see their parents again, that they had been taken from their homes and tossed into the pools in order to fulfill the required data specifications outlined by the city, the state, and the country.


A barbarian and an economist walk into a bar.

The barbarian says:

I dreamt we were in a swimming pool and you were swimming towards me. I was sitting on the wall and when you got to the wall the wall and I dissolved into the water and the pool stretched out endlessly and there were hundreds of children swimming in the pool and they were looking for their parents. There were men in orange wet suits painting lines throughout the water. Over the water, really. And the lines were different colors and they stuck to the surface of the water and we understood that certain colors meant certain things. And you picked up a drowning child and said. Here is a small piece of data. I won’t tell you what this data means in relation to the other data that will determine the relationship between your desire to eat the children and the future prosperity of the nation.

The economist orders two martinis and says to the barbarian:

There is something frozen here. I see you standing in front of the pool and I know that the you who is standing there is the you who has uttered this sentence so many times before. When you spit out the sentence they will say that it did not come from your mouth, that it came from the mouth of the person who was performing this act of being you.

In other words, linguistic theory opens the door for the possibility that we are not ethically responsible for our actions.

And the barbarian says:

Even if money doesn’t exist, there will always be an audience for economists.

And they take the water from the river and put it in the back of several trucks. And from the dried up river there emerges a country. And in the country there are children who have been invented by people who made money in things that do not actually exist.

And they don’t say. Why are you taking the water from the river?

And they don’t think. Why are you shaving the fur from the bodies of our dogs?

The children sit on the sofa placed perfectly in a picturesque location on the river. The dogs are arranged so that they rest in front of the sofa. The photographer asks the children to smile so that the rest of the world can see how well we treat the displaced people.

Do you want to see what you look like, the photographer says to the children.

The children look at their image without recognition, stuck as they are in the fantasy life of the economists.

And the barbarian says:

Do we really need these kids. Do I really need this job?

The three dogs guard the two children.

I will write their story but I will not understand it.

The doctor says. Yes, in Iowa we love a war between states, across borders both real and imagined


Did you hear the one about the boy who was thrown into the fire?

His charred meat was hacked up with a cleaver and fed to dogs while his parents watched from a cage.

I have awful psoriasis and my skin itches so badly and when I itch it bleeds all over our sheets but still I can’t keep myself from scratching.

The economist, formerly of the working class, only married so that he could demonstrate that it was possible for a “kid like me” to move into high society.

According to the data, it is impossible for rich people to be friends with poor people.

This, according to the data, is true in all societies.

Daniel Borzutzky is the author of The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011), The Ecstasy of Capitulation (2007), and Arbitrary Tales (2005). His translations include Raúl Zurita’s Song for his Disappeared Love (2010) and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl (2008). His work has been anthologized in, among others, A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years (Fence Books), Seriously Funny (University of Georgia Press, 2010), and Malditos Latinos Malditos Sudacas: Poesia Iberoamericana Made in USA (El billar de Lucrecia, 2010). Journal publications include BOMB, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, Chicago Review, TriQuarterly, and many others. Chapbooks include Failure in the Imagination (2007) and One Size Fits All (2009). His poems have been translated into Spanish, Bulgarian, French, and Turkish. He lives in Chicago.