NEA Literature Fellowships

Jeffrey McDaniel

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(2003 - Poetry)

The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly a 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,
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.

Jeffrey McDaniel was born in Philadelphia in 1967. He is the author of 3 books of poetry: The Splinter Factory, The Forgiveness Parade, and Alibi School.

Author's Statement

The NEA is a great thing to get for two reasons. 1. To be recognized by a group of accomplished writers is rewarding on an internal level. 2. The practical aspects of the fellowship will buy me a bit of time to work on new poems and a fiction project.