The gentle sea of her voice floated
into my ear turned up to the world
from the bare mattress we’d stripped
long ago and had taken to sleeping on
in these times that required frank and private
exposure. In an ideal world, buskers might be
outside smashing their guitars and gathering
machine guns to stow in their cases. Or maybe
just better words that pierced the smug armor
of—what do they call them?—lies? But amid
the exhaustion of tepid revolution,
we could only lie there and repeat love
with the fatalistic tenacity of the doomed.
America, 2019. Not so long ago. Today,
actually. We had blue sleeping bags we sometimes
crawled into, but their cocooning properties
had eroded. We had no butterfly illusions.
Why couldn’t we take to the streets
like on the news from foreign lands
with wider streets than ours
and outrage with staying power
built on bloody old stones thrown
against privilege? Wilting in the face
of true evil, unprepared for the torn-up rulebook,
the pissed-on rulebook, we pouted on the sidelines
while clever ones made soporific jokes
to overzealous hoots and frantic applause.
I felt her skin against my back and the comfort
of an open wound. I reached back to pull her
closer to squeeze out the panic. My other ear
tunneled down through the mattress
to the center of the earth
but I could still hear her:
you must get up, she said.
Copyright 2019 James Daniels
Jim Daniels’ many books include The Middle Ages(Red Mountain Press, 2018). A native of Detroit, Daniels is the Thomas Stockham University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.