Sound Effect


Come the dawn, clean through

my usual downstream drift

of random, qualm-suppressive

dreaming, there cuts a, not sound,

but sound’s hind-edge lull.

Stranger still, to be found

awake where the walls that make

for a house dissolve like doubt,

and all there is is our street’s,

bound in grief and not shamed

by its pain. Before this room’s accum-

ulations can again occlude

my gaze, I’m heading where, bare,

wrongs too embedded not to wring

their truth from song after song

prove how leadenly they’ll linger:

like granules in the tissues, but longer.


A day still loyal to its night.

White noise resumes while what illumines

dims. That, thus, seems that. Or

does it? Before fluming off

where next means same, let’s name

every hope this reveille hypes.

Let’s reclaim we will from you shouldn’t,

can from could’ve but couldn’t.

Let’s not wind up ended up

still deadending here. Declare

that we’re hearing rusty hasps

wrested off, and I’ll laugh, Yeah.

For those wondering whether or no

what needed breaking in fact

got broke, my take on it is

we should just make sure it did.

But as for you who long to hear

only the fist-eyed grunt

of a tightening grip, I won’t

cheer or chide such fear.

An hour ached-for as ours

blazes too briefly to waste

on a case as lost, a cause

as disgraced, as now is,

at long, long last, yours.





Friends, I’m having one of those days.

Everything’s bad and getting worse.


It’s obvious by now that for all the valiant

and selfless striving, most of us won’t


change fast enough for it to matter.

The trash, the cars, the meat, the water:


do your part or don’t, trust science

or that guy on YouTube, it’s the same. Friends,


as a poet I shouldn’t be writing this, but

my mood’s in no mood to worry about


how it makes me sound. Well, challenge accepted.

Ask yourselves this: what were you expecting


when you breezed in here past a title

like the one above? Something squalid and personal,


all binges, breakdowns, and performative trauma?

Sorry to disappoint, but in my disclosure


the catastrophe on display is you, not me.

Fact is, friends, I’m ashamed for our species,


and for most of us as individuals too.

I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is. Boom.


So you can understand why I’m always

coming back here, this bright noplace


where I’m never too proud to remember

kindnesses shown me when I was poor,


or lonely, or foolish, by someone with nothing

to gain. Because here, the rinsed light of morning


never quite fades from the view out over

green quiltworked fields, orchards, a river


sweeping grandly off toward the sea beyond.

And today you came, which makes me glad


because why shouldn’t it? It does. It will.

Here I wish you, I wish us all, well.


James McKee

James McKee enjoys failing in his dogged attempts to keep pace with the unrelenting cultural onslaught of late-imperial Gotham. His debut poetry collection, The Stargazers, was published in the spring of 2020, while his poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Spoon River Poetry Review, Another Chicago Magazine, New Ohio Review, New World Writing, The Ocotillo Review, Illuminations, CutBank, Flyway, THINK, The Midwest Quarterly, Xavier Review, and elsewhere. He spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help.

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