Inside Voices by Steven Searcy

Inside Voices

Along a bench, each nose is tipping up
or down, each eye is wide or almost shut,
some lips are pursed, some suck a coffee cup,
and some might even smile a moment. But

inside each face’s scowl or vacant stare,
there is a toddler singing just for joy—
unfettered, fervent, wholly unaware
of judgment or position. Is a boy

or girl the first thing that you notice when
you look in someone’s eyes? And are their squeals
of glee in your ears? Stop and look again—
think how the tread is worn on years-old wheels—

they’re there, somehow, somewhere, inside, beneath
the shards of broken glass and shells embossed
with rust, behind the shining, lying teeth.
Why shouldn’t every precious child be lost?

The hands that hold at first are generally
gone at some point, in some way, and cruel
or empty words are flung. Someone’s a bully.
Someone serves you tea, or scoops your gruel.

And always there are thunderstorms, and huge
oaks come crashing down. How do we ever
manage to stand here in this centrifuge,
where silent scissors loom, waiting to sever

the plainest, finest things—paper balloons
and china dolls and ink pen doodles. If only
we could hear those open, glowing tunes
bursting from precious throats, now bent and lonely.

How would you look at someone, if you heard
their oldest melody, or glimpsed the wings
they wore before they ceased to be a bird,
before they settled into saner things?

by Steven Searcy

Twitter: @ithinkiamsteven

Editor’s Note: This poem’s meter, rhyme, and imagery is the framework upon which the speaker’s thoughts lightly rest, drawing the reader into the scene with skillful persuasion (instead of brute force).


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