09.15.17
Weekly poem on Trump Presidency

 

CONOR BRACKEN

The New Solemnity

 

The year we had to ration laughter
no one told us to             no one told us
not to toss it like morning coffee
onto the halfhearted fires of our freedom
no one said it would be a bad idea
for us to let our laughter flicker like
a lamp behind a curtain swaying
while the tenants danced
                                    a bad idea to
cackle at the minor daily frictions
two squirrels quarreling up and down
the ugly splendor of a live oak
the young woman’s face contorting at a
stuffy man misquoting Bishop to her

the hate was coming             we could see it
its flamboyant clangor                         the sparks
the iron ground against the horizon’s wheel
people asked why weren’t we laughing
people said everything was fine as cotton
candy             don’t be such a downer and the hate
kept building its clockwork animosities

why are you not laughing they asked making
faces in the mirror-finish flanks             yanking
off each other’s ears             snapping off each other’s toes
little things to try to get us giggling
like climbing onto the shoulders
of the machines and leaping into the stiff arms
of others whose heads knocked together
with a sound like coconuts thinking
but we did not laugh as they installed
seats on the backs of the machines as they
laughed when others dropped their hammers
or lost their footing             vanished into the red maw
of the machines             they laughed like mice
being stepped on             like an orchestra of turnips
being played as violins and we did not laugh
because if we did we wanted them
to think it strange            to be afraid             to ask each other
while groping after their weapons-grade distractions
if what we were laughing at
was worth our laughter             our coughing
like water against the hulls of scuttled yachts
our dragging our knives of blunt delight
against the horripilated skin of silence

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Conor Bracken’s poems appear or are forthcoming in the Adroit Journal, Forklift OH, Muzzle Magazine, The New Yorker, and Thrush Poetry Journal, among others. His chapbook, Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour, selected by Diane Seuss as the winner of the 2017 Frost Place Chapbook Competition, will be published by Bull City Press in late 2017. A graduate of Virginia Tech, a former poetry editor for Gulf Coast, and the assistant director of a university writing center, he received his MFA from the University of Houston, in Houston, TX, where he and his wife currently live.

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illustration: anna_croc01

illustration: anna_croc01