Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in New York City. He is the author of two collaborative chapbooks as well as the books Blood on Blood (Unknown Press), and In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (forthcoming 2017, CCM Press). He edits for Full Stop, works as a college advisor in Queens, teaches at the City College of New York, and lives in Harlem.

Previously in Glass: A Journal of Poetry: New Interpretations of Faith

Poets Resist
Edited by Catherine Chambers
October 20, 2017

Devin Kelly

Daily Life

Just past happy hour, the beer eight dollars again. I peel off a ten, leave the change to tip. Sports & more sports — every day the same language is now a kind of coping turned in a more provocative light. In an inter-rupture of common silence, my father once said you need only a pen & paper to change the world. I came here for conversation, but no one's talking. Last night I dreamed an army of ants arriving for my body in my lover's bed & woke to find just one, which I let live. I'm all for sharing now. What passes for daily life in an age of insurrection, where my phone's search for health insurance at a bar turns into a poem as Bieber plays? When I was little, I harbored a sharp pain between my ribs. I didn't tell a soul for years. After the EKG the doctor told me it was nothing, just a simple swelling of what separates my bones. The pain's back now, cutting deeper. Each day this ache orbits the beating of my heart. I used to spend that last dark before sleep on my knees in prayer, my father's breath from the other room a sign of god. & though my faith is nothing now but an unlit lantern's wick, I have begun to believe again in miracles, that the space between each longing muscle's pulse is a place to build a home, despite the shortness of our breaths. I'm telling you this now because I need to say something of substance in this room we share. You can trust me. I'll do anything to keep you alive. I want pressure on my chest like bed sheets. Vibration of vowels. Simple touch of skin. One hand's kindness building some map of joy out of the quiet of a face. Our history belies protest as nuisance, death as mere abstraction. There are bodies in the street & they are as real as pain. If I have a heart attack it will feel like I feel every day. I won't know it till I’m dead.

I wrote this awhile ago, beginning it on my phone the day after the protests at JFK in the wake of the travel ban. I was in a bar and had just finished working with my high schoolers, many of whom were or would be affected by this administration. I was searching for some foothold in the mundane, I think, as a comfort. Looking back now, that feels so long ago, and my worries have compounded and doubled down. They have, so many of them, become real. I don't know if the mundane exists anymore. It is a privilege to say I even had an experience of it, I think. It is definitely a privilege to have been able to retreat to it for comfort. But this poem was searching for something like that, coming to a realization that everything is charged. It is perhaps the opposite of what I mention in the poem — these pains in my body being reduced to something simple, harmless. But even then the worry still remains. I don't know how to shake it.

Poets Resist is published by Glass Poetry Press.
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