Setting for a Cameo (for Douglas Crimp 1944–2019)

A poem by Gregg Bordowitz

Jim Hubbard, United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, 2012, video, color, sound, 93 minutes. Gregg Bordowitz and Douglas Crimp.


Do all the instruments agree?
Can they?
When each day is a season,
as the room narrows and
compounds mingle in discrete bones
Mind is instrument, includes heartspine
All organs conjugations
There, only discord remains

What pours opaque eyes
See: the transitive flow
We fail to define it
Words too remote from their roots
Sewage and surge
The swirl of it all in a cake
          with a preference toward custard

Surface tension covers gooey centers,
blotched onion skin transparencies,
lemon juice inks invisibly,
swirling aspic anatomies orchid blooms,
skin’s waxy luminescent glow;
While Instruments intrude their spelunking,
the depths infer as echo, as you, as shadow.
To what degree, what measure, what quantity?


Scales weigh both increase and decrease
Still figures stand
Measures are taken or abjured

Bodies count, we abide
Enjoy and suffer

Do we measure by rate or flow,
wave or particle?
Discord from some remove accords as . . .

Piano keys strike dissonance,
and still the body hears whole,
yet heals not
hears naught

Inside the ear beats drums
How sound remains after chords strike

Stars glisten here, die there
We are struck
Our attendance is a violence enjoyed

Notes decay; that is their beauty
That’s how glass stains
Religious imagery

We are masses
One among many in the madness of crowds
Pellets dispersing in aggregates

Wars of attrition depopulate
our pleasures,
and yet the meanest wafers soothe

Counting, all makes sense,
just as each seed knotted along string

breath stills
breaths still
all now still


Digital numbers do not resemble the deceased clock face,
as the reading table does not hear the gun shot massacres
fired from the unregulated arms of hatred’s twists,
obeying president’s bellowing speeches.

O, the dogs are barking in packs unleashed across
our increasingly uninhabitable terrain;
this feels familiar

You wrote:

But if we understand that violence is able to reap its horrible rewards through the very psychic mechanisms that make us part of this society, then we may also be able to recognize—along with our anger—our terror, our guilt, and our profound sadness. Militancy of course, then, but mourning too: mourning and militancy.

So? So what? Sew buttons! (as my grandmother used to say).
Seeds now as you decomposing lie wrapped by enzymes shroud,
earth’s prisoner kept by soils weight.
That is not you, but merely your slighted frame

Here you are and here you will remain, in our urgent words
What we declaim; as long as there is breath
I will speak to you; for your ears to hear and eyes to light;
and test the bounds of acceptance by your example,
your standard,
             for what else is there to do?

I aspire
You still aspire
All aspires

Your death knew neither night nor day,
was it late or early morning?
Does it matter?
Are you matter?
Are you more or less
the cool forehead kissed?

No more questions.

A Memorial for Douglas Crimp: Mourning and Militancy will take place on Saturday, November 2, at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 East Tenth Street, New York. Doors open at 12:30 PM. Memorial begins at 1 PM.