Eighty-Two Words for The Quiet World

The Quiet World

by Jeffrey McDaniel

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 one 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.


And an insubordinate response :


words for you —

When a look is all you need,

save the sighs

for the slight

we’re about to have –

that you won’t respond to.

Because while you go about

obeying the

clearly oppressive

and totalitarian rules,

I’m lost

in the thistles

sinking in the sand,

wondering how to see through

the bone dry dust

of your dull dulcet words.

We should talk

about what this lack of

clear communication

is communicating.

Because my silence

is a complete absence of sound.


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