“Headphones” by John Paul Davis

sekka head phones
Momoyogusa = Flowers of a Hundred Generations by Sekka Kamisaki, New York Public Library

There is no cure, no salvation
only work & more work
& if you are lucky, forgiveness

if you have been forgiven
throw your hands in the air
maybe sing a little

remember it is possible
for a person to live
an entire life never having been

in the subway I had on headphones
listening to the rock band who gave
everyone their album for free

it was pretty good
even though I had swallowed
enough grief, enough loss

that I wondered what is the noun
of assembly for sorrows,
like a wake of buzzards

or a lamentation of swans
perhaps a never of sorrows
or a fifth of sorrows

or a war, yes I had swallowed a war
of sorrows & I’d forgotten
what the world felt like

from a body that didn’t have a clotted
throat & pinched lungs
& the rock band’s song

was about their childhood
sorrows which was also a war
& across from me on the train

sat a younger man, maybe even a kid
he was hip & handsome
sharply dressed & it happened

that he was also embraced
by headphones tapping his feet
& nodding his head
as if agreeing
with what he heard over & over
yes yes yes yes

yes yes yes yes
& he looked up at me, smiled
& I realized I was also bobbing

my head & what’s more to a tempo
identical & simultaneous
to his & I smiled back

as if to say I get it, I see
it too & we travelled that way
our bodies clocking

our separate musics
& periodically looking up
& almost-laughing

then it was his stop
& he jutted his chin out
which is a way men

give benediction
& loped off the train
in big bounding steps

& the band in my ears
changed songs
but stayed in the same war

& I can’t recall if I was still sad
I’m sure I was still grieving
but I remember it all as music.

✶✶✶✶

john-paul-davis

John Paul Davis is a poet, musician and programmer. His work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Four Way ReviewRATTLEMUZZLESalamander, and Bennington Review. His first collection of poetry, Crown Prince Of Rabbits, was published by Great Weather For Media in 2016.