Thursday, February 7, 2008

"The Quiet World" by Jeffrey McDaniel

Whilst perusing the book fair at AWP, I came across the table for Manic D Press. Needless to say, I loved the name. The woman there (I did not get her name) asked me if I wanted to read a really good poem. Keep in mind, that I had been at the book fair all day. I was tired, hungry and a little dazed at this time (the book fair is pretty overwhelming but also, with its free stuff and its many books, is like crack for a person like me). I have to admit that, right then, no, I did not want to read this "very good poem" because what if I thought it sucked? Knowing full well that saying yes might lead to an awkward exchange with this bookseller (and knowing full well that she was trying to sell me something that I might not want and knowing I had already spent a lot of money that day), I said yes. I have a hard time saying no.

This is the poem she had me read, from Jeffrey McDaniel's book The Forgiveness Parade.

I think you can probably guess that I bought the book. Nothing else in it is quite as good as this, but this is quite good.

The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly a hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond,
I know she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

(Jeffrey McDaniel, from The Forgiveness Parade, 1998 Manic D Press)

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