A Poem by Thomas Devaney

Madison, Monk, and the Opposition Party

There is an inherited dispute no one disputes.

Even if it’s a fable — we agree to disagree.

There was once enough agreement about disagreement to agree.

In school I pored over James Madison and Thelonious Monk.

Both Madison and Monk understood essential tension:

the variant shapes that are X and N and O; and our dented

and shiny horns of mutual frustration. And more yet will.

This: how I came to speak for myself.

Now I stand among the rocks. The rocks are stony and proud in their way.

Blunt and mute (or partly so). Sometimes saying things like: Hold me — and go.

And hold me, and stay. So I go; or hold on as long as I can.

The rocks are never obvious, this: their appeal.

We take photographs, but they start to slide out of the picture.

As the page and the slanting handwriting there is always more than its texture.

The day passes. The rocks remain. For the moment, lunch makes a difference.

Monk is mute and Madison is voluble on factions; I listen to both.

I write this out on an oak table; someone made it.

It is a plank I use for eating, talk, collage —

the table is under it all, but I cannot circle back to it now.

That work is done — now: our turn.

NOW is the thing that no one doubts. The rocks are another thing.

Who wants these? They are here, but they are another thing.

Nobody seems to want them, so: the rocks, the rocks. It’s not a clear.

Give us the rocks then. We’re all-in with the rocks.

Thomas Devaney is the author of Runaway Goat Cart (Hanging Loose Press, 2015), Calamity Jane (Furniture Press, 2014), and The Picture that Remains (The Print Center, 2014). He is the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for poetry and teaches at Haverford College.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.