Lytton Smith & Adam O. Davis

What If Your Agreement Is Not My Agreement (A Treaty)


Preface. Declares the treaty to be "in the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity," states the bona fides of the signatories, and declares the intention of both parties to "forget all past misunderstandings and differences" and "secure to both perpetual peace and harmony."


The tourniquet a tincture of hopeful rope
spliced. Thinking the security of reef knots    
I lapse into manharness, into artillery.
Our glorious milquetoast manners militarized    
into a pie-maker's nightmare: birds afoot    
and the feet of birds also. What messengers
now can we send? I surmise porpoise,    
pledge their delivery be that of a sea-to-land
missile. If you feel misled, there’s a form    
if the link isn’t broken and the e-mail doesn’t
bounce like a shady check. Complaints?    
Look in the direction of the unscaffolded sun
and see if you don’t feel better. Otherwise    
lament, lanyard to yourself everyday relics—
eggcups & cutlery—as proof against loss.     
But what’s loss other than an admission
of neglect? Let’s take up our neckties     
and fasten them to trees: two open loops
begging. A black humored day turning    
sartorial as we burden this branch together.


4. Recognizing the lawful contracted debts to be paid to creditors on either side;


This dish is mostly crab, imitation or soft-shell,    
and cannot be returned, with receipt
or no. What we learn from faux sustenance is    
that all accounts must be settled
regardless of expectation or cultural desire.    
A laid table and a little reckoning:
between the menu and the constitution we    
are laid bare between belief and actuality: 
will what we order be what we want?    
We eat as if our forkfuls are missiles,
our glances revolutionary. We dare not    
question the logic of an all-you-can-eat
buffet, lest we go in want of plenty.     
From Paul we have taken Mary’s skidoo
to pay Peter his bearfur bathrobe. Goods    
require payment, otherwise they’re gifts.
Even oxygen demands an alimony    
of us. Haven’t you noticed the trees sag
at our tight-chested passing, our held words?    
e carry what we’re loaned like shipwrecks.


5. The Congress of the Confederation will “earnestly recommend” to state legislatures to recognize the rightful owners of all confiscated lands “provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects [Loyalists]”;


Take this potted plant. A rucksack.    
Your bindlestiff is barely adequate
for all the snuffboxes and silver    
you wouldn’t jettison three peddlars back,
and now we’re taken for cheapjacks,    
our iceskates nothing but oceanic trash
tumbledried sea-glass green, an agent    
of our displacement. If you gave us
a cartographer we’d disorient her north.    
If you showed us your house we’d set it
on fire. We aren’t vandals but collectors    
of ruin, char. From the antique shops
of out-of-the-way towns we’ve furnished    
new lives from whatever the past left us.
There’s no robbery without the grave    
deterred in moonlight. With these shovels
we’d hoped to unearth the Modern but    
found an instead an I.O.U. If pursuit is
purely promissory, this handbag     
contains multitudes, and never what you need.


8. Great Britain and the United States were each to be given perpetual access to the
Mississippi River;


The process by which sand is applied to paper    
and dragged across riverbanks.
This byway prospecting. This divisive irrigation    
nothing more than a natural division of labor
designed to cradle the head like a harpoon    
and ready the body for photography.
The human holding the baby wears a blanket.    
The catfish at the river bottom wears a hook.
We have doctored ourselves to strange health    
and have the ochre glow to show for it.
Given any arrangement of wood we can float    
we will find our way to new lands and set up
our games of chance just beyond the law,     
furloughs and fathoms from jurisprudence—
until the swallowtide fires us, greenish    
longshoremen orphaned in lung, to a new
longitude. Let’s take up soap and lather    
ourselves, stripped like saplings, or reeds.
This is the national body. Its contours    
that of the national diet: in flux, cornfed.