The Shock


Up late. The wife asleep, the laptop screen
a nightlight of sorts, I semi-surf the web—
a Twitter deep dive—another angry teen
was shocked by murder into eloquence.
This is the moment past the lowest ebb,
a flow of power in the present tense…
and me on my computer late at night
trying to get it down and get it right.

This time around, the exclamation mark
feels more like a smirk than yell, the sloganeers
both older now and younger. Make a spark,
fail to light a cigarette. The flame
comes from elsewhere. A crowd with open beers
chants in a parking lot before a game
you thought was played and lost, the season done.
Grab a cold one, try to have some fun,

even as you fail to place a bet,
head home before the final goal is scored,
miss the meeting, swallow the epithet,
and playact being a grownup for a while.
There are advantages in being bored—
but this is not a boring time. The style
does not admit to notes of irony,
and what you get is less than what you see.

The dipshit pundits wait with talking points
a couple mouse-clicks over, beckoning
like teenaged dealers selling sagging joints.
I try to ignore them, try to just assume
that soon enough, their day of reckoning
will come via online own, the mark of doom
appearing in print or pixelated dots—
maybe with the aid of Russian bots.

Daycare awaits tomorrow, and the Earth
has to hold together for a boy—
the sea can’t rise to drown him, and the dearth
of money, goddamn money, can’t corrupt
his wide, ecstatic smile, his simple joy
at what we might be, that might yet interrupt
each pious rewrite of our epitaphs,
each consent to the tyranny of graphs.

Quincy R. Lehr’s poetry and prose have been published in numerous venues in North America, Europe, and Australia. His latest book is The Dark Lord of the Tiki Bar (2015), and he lives in Los Angeles.