The Rape of the Plains
Reeled into a rapidly diminishing world; savoring
the gently malevolent stillness, fading
into the encroaching distance; watching
the sunlight stabbing into dry grass; listening
to the leaves rustling in the wind,
broken only by birdsong: to flower
for an hour in a home away from home,
on my own. But you can’t go anywhere,
even nowhere, anymore. A car rattles
over the railroad crossing
and flabby forms come tumbling out
of SUV doors, gadgets at the ready, gasping
with exaggerated awe, filling
the desired quietude with their own
vociferous emptiness, shredding
the serenity with amplified insincerity
and nerve-jangling explosions
of mindless mirth, with no concern
for my bedeviled presence, a solitary sacrifice
to weak-voiced slaughter, trapped
in a vortex of verbigeration.
Silence is life. Kill it
with conversation. An empty head
is necessary in order to keep endlessly talking:
the emptiness serves as a sort of fuel.
The less someone has to say, the more
they say, and the more loudly they say it.
What they’re on about, I have no idea.
I have nothing to say,
other than this.
Image: Silence is Life, John Tottenham, ink on paper, 2019.
John Tottenham is a failed visionary and a sorely underused resource. He is the author of three slender volumes of poetry: The Inertia Variations (2010), Antiepithalamia: & Other Poems of Regret and Resentment (2012), and The Hate Poems (2018). His long-standing column in Artillery is widely read.