Forty-Nine Deconstructions of Kant’s Categorical Imperative by Lucas Gonzalez

For Orlando

1. [In Images]

i. Odometer reaching its max.
ii. Accelerator pushing its peak.
iii. A new record-high temperature set.
iv. A new stack of bodies in a heap.

5. [Through a Distortion of Language]

Nature: Gerund (Part of Speech), yet, missing the i-n- g.

6. [Through Destroying notions of Destruction, those who seek to Destroy]

Some are thinking:
there are even more records still yet
to be beaten. Silences yet
to be deepened
and blood still
to be made viscous
and slick
for the cheering.

There will be time to destroy ourselves again tomorrow.
Now is no time to think too much.

There will be a last stand on our feet
when the idealogues come to burn each other down
and torture the other for their resources
without ideas so lofty as Victory or Defeat.

All that will come later. Just dream of tomorrow for now.

Let’s eat.

7. [In Theory]

It is not that History repeats, exactly. It is the way it skips
like an embattled vinyl disc. It is the sense of satisfaction
that lifts from within
as the cognitive dissonance sets in:
that sweet pain that comes from knowing.

8. [Through an Honest Exploration of Multiple Possible Viewpoints and Perspectives]

In ‘Ignorance’ is the act of ‘Ignoring.’

It is your own smug way of saying,
No, this is the way it is always, while you must know damn well by now

nothing is so permanent.

You are not structured hard as diamond.

9. [Through Something Close to an Objective Realization]

One day you will be read, evaluated.
Your relevance and collective contribution to progress
will be determined.
How do you sleep at night, then?

10 . [Through Knowledge]

To study philosophy
is to open some part of the young heart and brain
and watch them grotesquely discovering each other
like lovers in an unsafe garden.

11. [Through the Wisdom and Guidance of Friends]

A professor once told a colleague of mine,
To go forward studying philosophy,
You must be happy knowing what you know.

So it goes with all you set your heart to.
And you must be happy loving what you love.

12. [Through the Act of Reading Literature]

The main takeaway
from what we have discovered about ourselves
seems to be that
Humanity’s nature is immolation.
Like Tennessee Williams said,
We live in a burning building.

Someone is maniacally shooting it up, trying to explode it. You scramble up the stairs and out of the exits, trying, desperate to save a few things you love. When the author describes the burning, what he means is a kind of despair and aloneness, a dissatisfaction with the world they say is like a falling from Eden you didn’t deserve to be in or fall from in the first place. And the shooting, I imagine, is an extended nightmare of that vision. They are real bullets. This is real darkness.

13. [Through Epistemological Certitudes]

Factual conclusion:
It is acts of love that obstruct and dissolve violence.
What more do you need to know
about the nature of the universe?
To find a way of living?

14. [Through Empathy]

I’m sorry that the world somehow did you wrong,
and I’m trying hard to understand your rage
but how does right come from wrong, again?
Kant would say that it cannot.
It is not just rhetoric.
Vengeance can only ever be good.
And the good, in his terms, only serves the self.
And that is not heroic.

15. [Through Movement]

Go, leave
and dream up the means
to venture through your time
beyond this place
after you have left your terrible
collected trace upon it,
or after time has left
its magnificent scars upon your wrists
and absconded.

16. [Through the Unconditional Act of Love]

Now that the world is broken open,
try to know Good from Right
as you choose your destiny.
And if even if you can’t process
dense, obscure, complex theories fully,
think of doing. Think of action.
Transform yourself into a verb.
Confront the obfuscations. Use a dictionary.
Look past the wall of apathy
they keep trying to rebuild again.
Call back the troops and the assassins.
Give up the grip on weapons and doctrines.
Let all platitudes for love be damned.
Show me action.

17. [Through Conscious Thought]

Let us be rivers with our love, and poets with our words.

18. [Through Being Called to Action]

I remember walking with you
at the marathon, dancing against your hips at Pulse,
interrupted flying home from Boston to New York,
and I know now, more than ever
it could just as well have been us.

19. [Through Queer Literature]

As a dreamier thought, Tennessee Williams once said,
“When we love–really love–in any way,
we are announcing to the world that we intend to survive.”

20. [Through Gay Art]

Il bizzaro e fantastico, Michelangelo, once wrote:

I feel as lit by fire a cold countenance
That burns me from afar and keeps itself ice-chill;
A strength I feel two shapely arms to fill
Which without motion moves every balance.

Cavalieri, the poet’s lover, replied:

I swear to return your love. Never have I loved a man more than I love you, never have I wished for a friendship more than I wish for yours.

I can’t help but still imagine two nearly naked men reaching for each other on a ceiling.

30. [Through a moment of Silence Meditation or Remembrance]
31. Through wondering why you don’t have more gay friends
32. Through realizing that you have more gay friends than straight ones

Because it is the age that Jesus died
and somewhere in the middle we are losing count of the bodies again
Forgetting the message willfully, twisting it, distorting towards their own ends.
And therein is Kant’s categorical imperative: the moral obligation
that trumps any personal inclinations or purposes that may prevent the fulfillment
of that selfless love’s perpetual triumphant act again.

34. Because so many are not weeping over their faces and names exactly because they’re gay.
35. Because of the kind of self-identity crisis that creates to a spray of bullets, and questioning what more could be done to stop it.
36. By disarming demagogues of their automatic weapons and destroying religious mafias that devalue human life and the general condition of life on this planet.

37. [By Learning to Understand Others]

Herman Melville is argued to have written the greatest American novel, Moby Dick. Most of us never make it all the way through it, but you only have to read the first hundred pages to know that the whole thing starts out with Ishmael narrating the simultaneous terror and delight of bedding with a Cannibal from the West Indies with whom he becomes “bosom” buddies. Queequeg’s face is covered in tattoos, and he carries a mighty harpoon, which Melville describes in great detail. Apparently, he found this to be a turn on.

38. [Through teaching the poetry of Allen Ginsberg]

and understanding that we are not so biblically far away from a time
when we denounced illegal love
and made it punishable as a crime.

Like the poet’s hallucination of Blake, let us consider ourselves
some grander hand
is the thing that made itself
and unmakes itself again.
which means
that we can
remake the world

39. [Through a necessary tangent into Blake]

and like the sunflower let us aspire to the sun
and as the night’s darkness grows stronger
know well that the wanderer’s journey is long

let us not pray for each other at all
but let us be strong and weep together
when the monsters creep from the caverns deep
and fight them like the family we are

Let not let the hungry worm
that has found your very own center
of secret, crimson joy
eat out the rose with its sick, destructive hunger.
Let your capacity for suffering
transform into the necessity of love.

As you’re seeking out for your maker meek
ruby tears and eyes so deep
your desert wild
become a garden mild.
The years pull you
down to their darkest dreams:

43. [Through never knowing sleep]

If others must weep
for the simple act
of being

44. [Through reading feminist literature]

When I dive into the wreck
It is because I am searching
for something
only occasionally
but consistently offered
by the tools of written language:
and feel like there is nothing,
wanting everyone and no one,
this life and another,
and feeling like a nobody,
I want to ask:

45. Are you nobody, too? Like Emily Dickinson once did.

46. [Through remembering a life that has been lost]

Whether it was the crucifixion of Matthew Shepard
Or the shots that blew down Harvey Milk
It’s all so much more than a cruel fiction.
Your heart needs to react, too.

47. [Through having your own gay heroes]

Because our favorite teacher was a gay man or woman
and he/she
wanted us all to be the best people we could be
no matter the cost

48. [Through protest]

Because of the special interests and the gun lobbies holding our rights hostage
And for the politicians who do nothing


Take a stroll down Castro Street
Past the Castro Camera
To where the Flag flies high
In a continuum of color
Tell your friends
It’s not just politics
It’s the runaway kid from San Antonio
It’s your burning city
Just as much as it is my own.



Lucas Gonzalez was born in New York City. His first novel, Maple Machine, was published in 2006 by 826 National. Lucas has worked primarily as a high school English teacher in California, earning his MA from the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of a English, where he was a 2012 recipient a Robert Haiduke Prize in Poetry. Lucas is currently an MFA Candidate at Columbia University in the City of New York. You can find out more about him at