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 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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