Silent Prophet

By Carl Dennis b. 1939 Carl Dennis
It’s the last day, but I’m keeping the news to myself.
If yesterday it made sense for letter carriers
To carry letters from door to door,
The job still ought to be worth doing.
Why tell what I know and risk a walkout?
Let firefighters race to the last fire.
Let platoons of police set up their last lines
So the factions that come to the demonstration
Do battle only in words and gestures.

The day is different, but only for me,
Knowing as I do that it offers the last chance
For a cautious investor to resist his nature enough
To back a grocery in a battered district,
And the last chance for the would-be grocers
To open a bottle of good champagne
In the kitchen of the friend who’s led them
Through the small-print maze of the application.
And now they’re toasting the months to come
Scheduled to move the project along
From drawing blueprints to cutting ribbons.
Shall I tell them their expectations are dreams
If the dreams impart to the day contour and substance?

Though silent, I’m rooting for them to let the day
Expand to include the days to be denied them.
And I hope that the friend who’s pouring
A final round in his kitchen isn’t disturbed
As his small apartment fills with the sound
Of squeaking from across the hall, though yesterday
He banged on his neighbor's door for quiet.
It’s his last chance to endorse a woman
Bent on learning from scratch to play the viola,
To respect her for finding an hour a day for practice,
As if raising two sons alone
And teaching civics at a high school
Not renowned for civility weren't enough.

Should I sit on a stone and lament
That the day is her last if it still contains,
Scrolled up within it, the years she'll need
To master the art of voicing feelings
Not now expressed, at home or in class,
About the distance between the world
She’d like to inhabit and the world she does?

Some other prophet, convinced the future
Depends on the flow of time to give it substance,
May decide to speak out. I’m keeping silent
As one of her sons sits at his desk
Dividing a page into reasons for leaving home
And reasons for staying. Now on this last day
It seems that home is best defined as any region
On earth that has much to teach him,
And now as the region fit to receive the most
Of whatever he’ll have to offer
After he learns where his talents lie.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2008
 Carl  Dennis


Carl Dennis was born in 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned a BA from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from the University of California-Berkeley. He has taught at the State University of New York-Buffalo since 1966, where he is both a professor of English and writer in residence. Dennis has published numerous books of poetry, including House of My Own (1974), The Outskirts of Troy (1988), Meetings with Time (1992), . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Social Commentaries

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