"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