poem: The Quiet World

The Quiet World
by Jeffrey McDaniel
In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
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 and 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.

I can never decide. Sometimes I think this might be on my list of perfect love poems, poems that would guarantee my eternal adoration to the boy who spontaneously read them to me in a park or over cigarettes. Most of the time I just like it for the premise it presents: a world with legal limits on words! O, how much easier school would be if this were the case! I think I could possibly maintain a loving and forgiving attitude towards the world if everyone were limited to under 200 words per day.

Also, a law like that might make poetry matter again.

Perfect.

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~ by Not Alice on September 11, 2007.

3 Responses to “poem: The Quiet World”

  1. 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.

    There are a few things I love about this stanza. First, I love that the unquestioning assumption is that the lover has used up all her words – not that she doesn’t want to spend them on the caller. Next is the way the caller chooses to use up the rest of her/his allotment – whispering the three most important words in our language over and over again. Last, I wonder which word won out for the final “third”…

  2. personally, i love that this starts with a reference to enforced eye contact, and then ends with a situation in which eye contact is impossible. there’s something rather wonderful about that.

  3. thanks for this – really lovely.

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