Back to Issue Twenty-Five.

why there is no interest in singing



In these times of heave and eddy,
the people have grown

austere. Brambles should have caught flame
by now. A reluctant warrior should have emerged

to orate forth an opus. Home is where the psalm is
and so I choral my offspring as I am able,

encourage them to emote their own opera,
compose a truth—some chord of code, perhaps a hex

in A minor, one not locked into that logic
of the common meter.

My young dutifully mouth the sanctioned libretto.
Their syncopated arrangements are an alien strain

unwelcome in the standard repertoire.
They cannot outshout the refrain

that programs them to whitewash. To be an asset
in today’s troupe demands a singer

eschew all appearances
of singing. Improvisation invites discord—

so many more doorkeepers now.
The homeland beats with a wind-bluffed,

boot-strapped people
who like every boot to be on the ground, to die

with their boots on.
A call to voice is a call to asphyxiation.

Too soon song will be roped
into the service of boots.


Nancy Chen Long is a 2017 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellow. Her first book Light into Bodies (University of Tampa Press, 2017) won the Tampa Review Poetry Prize. You’ll find her recent work in Third CoastThe Southern Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Ninth Letter, Zone 3, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, and elsewhere. She works at Indiana University in the Research Technologies division.

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