Poems and Texts

“Only The Lonely” by Danniel Schoonebeek

Dan Poppick & Danniel Schoonebeek
Monday, September 24, 2018, 8:00 pm

Only The Lonely

All of this came over the wire during the heat-stroke days of that summer, 2008, what we liked to call our summer of sun poisoning, it was the rabid Dog in the sky and Bo Diddley’s cigar-box guitar in the dirt, it was Studs Terkel’s reel-to-reel tape recorder in the dirt, this was the international year of sanitation as decreed by the U.N. Coalition, also the international year of potato vodka, and 54 sentenced to death in the early months for anti-regime propaganda, or we listened to rebels storming the capital those mornings our hands shook too much to write, it was the year of the stock market breaking a bottle of dom pérignon on the dance floor and disemboweling itself with the stub, year of the rat and the star that exploded 7.5 billion years ago appeared above the sugar factory like a blood debt, it was crowds on Knickerbocker watching Castro abandon the throne, or wrenching open a fire hydrant and I was that child who drank from the gutter, it was a tornado outbreak defacing the tobacco fields of the South, it was nobody needing to ask why the gun factory exploded after seventeen were shot in the seminary, it was another assassination attempt in Kabul, death by train for 71 in Shandong, or we watched armed clashes begin on a blurry Panasonic and 2,441 miles away there were 63 killed by bunker busters, 1,860 miles east a cyclone killed 138,000, and another 785 miles north an earthquake claimed 69,000, it was another monarchy abolished, it was Flight 109 catching fire on the tarmac, it was seven stabbed in Akihabara and another ten hospitalized, it was a black chevrolet outfitted with plastic explosives and wheeled up to the gates of the United States embassy, and thus concluding a 12-year manhunt a war criminal was detained on the same day, 22 years prior, that the following person was born on a 92-degree day in July.

He’s a young man

stage left

in a tumbledown suit


& he’s sunk to his hips in quicksand.

There’s a passerby

off camera

in a stolen A-line dress


& you can hear her treading the wings

like a tumbleweed.


The scene is simple it’s panic grass


but you can’t see the sheep


(no the grass

it’s too high)


but their bleats

& the bells round their necks


you can hear them.


This is an otherwise unremarkable badland


if not for a klieg light

that flares down from the rafters


upon an otherwise

unremarkable young man


who’s sunk to his hips in quicksand.


It was summer all year that seventh year of war, he begins.

The rivers were boiling.


The wine turning sour.


Everywhere dogs

were scratching their mange off in the streets.


(Throughout we can hear the sheep bleating).


(Throughout we can hear their bells).


I asked if I could shoot your picture

in front of a trash fire


someone had lit beneath the J train on Broadway.

Not on your life, you said.

And it was thus I started a failed novella

in which an old man

such is his loneliness

lights a small fire each day inside his apartment

solely to tell his story

to the people who come to extinguish it.

Summer of neverending briquettes

& fireworks

with names like


The Great Pretender

Black Snake

Grounds for Divorce.


Summer you said, “I think god loves us most

when god ghosts us.”


“When god negs us where we sleep.”


It was thus I started a failed novella


in which all of Brooklyn

after the firestorm

that ends the United States

departs for heaven together

only to find heaven’s empty—

the Boneshaker’s missing

& heaven’s just this void of sunflower seeds

& burlap sacks

& tools strewn willy-nilly about

the escarpments.


It ends on this leitmotif

of everyone working together to build a new world

only the new world resembles the old world to a T.

In the corner in this scene taking a break

from their hammering

a father and son sit hand-in-hand

spitting sunflower seeds

through a hole in the floor of heaven.

This is when you approach me to say

pointing at the family

“you and me, we will never love that ruthlessly.”

And this is also when you hear the foreman

from atop one of heaven’s gravel pits

start to play “What a Wonderful World” on his trumpet.

At this time the young man’s head

sinks below the quicksand


& sunflower seeds start to fall from the rafters.

Enter the passerby

stage right


in stolen A-line dress.


(Throughout we can hear the sheep bleating).


Stage direction indicates nothing

save that she


1) moves like a tumbleweed


2) passes by the patch of quicksand unaware


3) only speaks the following line.


So goes the legend, she says.


(Throughout we can hear their bells).

This piece was originally published in Bennington Review

Photo: Jesse Dreyfus

Danniel Schoonebeek

Danniel Schoonebeek is the author of American Barricade (YesYes Books, 2014) and Trébuchet, a 2015 National Poetry Series selection published by University of Georgia Press in 2016. A recipient of a 2015 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from Poetry Foundation, recent work appears in The New Yorker, Poetry, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere.

Related Events