David Herd

A footnote to the American Constitution

Or set about it this way, Taney could see no pretext
that the authority the constitution has confided
under any circumstances be usurped
at its discretion the people of the United States
but every citizen hold life at the pleasure
in whose district he happens to be found.
                                                No matter.
                                                                                           In a short session
a bill to provide indemnity for suspension of the writ
to remove Taney’s objection that Congress
not the President had the power
passed December 8 Senate finally cleared.
So establishing the basis
                                                                                           for all
subsequent application

the day the beach filled
though the season was already through
nobody sure     could be
if they’d get another chance
only the sun was out
so this was a good day for beer
camped    whole families hardly shopping
not thinking whereabouts
in the sun to be sure.

Thinking maybe lunch maybe
which   way the children
down beside the water headed
each way dunewards
people thinking Amstel maybe
since the   day looked long enough
and barely anybody present at it
felt compelled to move
anybody           laid out before the sun
people thinking Kronenberg even
whole families playing soccer
sure         to be before whom any such
persons acting plainly
given only time.

This much I can report.
I didn’t speak to the sun directly
minded he was busy and
anyway since he talked to O’Hara
the principle of constitution
seemed hardly to have changed,
though this was Camber Sands
nobody’s version of Long Island
such commons in the present
by the authority understood
that he shall     people talking Polish
people talking bodies the way the wind picks up

making it creditable     and warm
like an avenue in springtime
or some such
some kind of whereabouts
this much I’m ready to report:
one, looking out for the first time
people at the water thinking sure enough,
that day definitely     Taney’s objection applied.

Four poems by way of document


Standing out and sometimes

miles   from any place

likewise carrying an alias

following the direction of the land

as it distances to some degree

making the manner of the way

an issue, limited in any case

according to   the long delays,

made either better or sometimes

true according to the present

jurisdiction, whether a person

copies or whether a person

acts, not so tender now

but plainly marked

taking the view in from

where it matters where

he stands same as any body

making out         said order.


By standing
                                                             any one of them

In cause of this                that

Where the miles go
Where the persons

Brought enacted

Who were present
After the party

What the distances shall bring

Making it                whatsoever

Out by commons



Which is what matters

Stánding in this sáme place

Where the days appear

As part of the process

And there is no necessity

To pretend   each one

Making it so plainly expressed

Standing like an act

Like a person present

Sometimes sure   sometimes

Likewise limited

Standing still and waiting

As the commons shifts

Or say it this way

There is no felony in presence

Not in standing plainly

Making out the distance

Such commons assembled

Bringing persons into place

That this be the process

No necessity to attest

Each one making it   the way

The city shifts   carrying

Each one notwithstanding

No one to witness

No offence.


having marked the land

to assemble a city

standing            watching

by commons out

They offered me a television. I offered them a phone.

Not to become angry we tread carefully
Around the truth the kind of
Day you’ve had the kind of
Weather you who register the world
Not stacking up
Though you don’t ask much
Only that some things
Might not yet happen
As you hang on
As sometimes on the phone
I tell you my day
You tell me yours

Not angry, modern,
Since none of the places you go to
Stand open on the territory
And none of the symbols you carry
In the pocket of your rucksack
Settle your whereabouts as you
Straggle along the shore
Unfixed, uncertain what might happen
Only that difficult things
Will come to pass
And so you say nothing and
None the wiser
I say nothing in return.

David Herd writes poetry and criticism. His poetry includes Mandelson! Mandelson! A Memoir, Rote-Through, (a book-length collaboration with Simon Smith) and All Just (forthcoming from Carcanet in 2012). Recent essays on poetry and politics have appeared in PN Review, Parallax and Almost Island. He lives in Canterbury and teaches at the University of Kent, where he directs the Centre for Modern Poetry.

All of the above poems come from All Just.
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