Both poems and dreams dissolve the dominant logics of waking life. The elements endure, but the disruption of daily life’s syntax allows for alternative convergences—any number of kinships made suddenly possible. In a dream or a poem, you might find yourself waiting in line to vote behind a family of penguins, or inexplicably married to your best friend from middle school. Relationships are reconstituted.
Jackie Wang’s “Accoutrements” takes place in a dreamspace preoccupied with relation. “In the dream,” the poem begins, then unfolds onto an exchange where the speaker relinquishes their gold jewelry to an organizer from the prison abolitionist organization Black and Pink. The interaction feels straightforward, but that simplicity is undercut by the uncertain meanings of relation. “These gold rings—how many prisoners could be freed for the price of these rings?” the speaker (or the poem) wonders, the strange question transgressing the dreamworld with horrible familiarity. As the poem lifts up the exchange of property for people, it exposes its own terms not as the product of the subconscious’s terrible meandering, but as the very condition of the present’s foundational history. This is what you have, says the dream, the poem, the world. Now what will you do with it?
– Claire Schwartz
In the dream my dragnet brain is a perfect stenographer—everything I see is transubstantiated into words.
These gold rings—how many prisoners could be freed for the price of these rings?
I pull them off my fingers one by one and drop them on the table.
Take these, I tell the Black and Pink organizers.
Are they solid gold?
Yes, they’re gold.
What is the weight of freedom?
Jackie Wang is a scholar, abolitionist, poet, multimedia artist, and assistant professor at The New School. She is the author of Carceral Capitalism (Semiotext(e), 2018) and the poetry collection The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void (Nightboat Books, 2021).