“American Sonnet in Which the Senate Floor Becomes a Silent Disco” by Bailey Cohen

Bailey Cohen


after Wanda Coleman

You’d never believe me if I told you. Old men
With their hips swinging to old soul songs on the floor
Of the Senate. & it wasn’t the genre of their tunes
Or the way their wives blushed & hand-swatted, or the way
That the tongues of singers knotted

if another man tried to listen to another man’s
Song. Everything was embarrassing. The women senators
Were no help because they hadn’t been invited to dance.
OK. Maybe that part you can believe. Back to the music.
With their backs

to the wall & making somehow comfortable
Eye contact, their bodies moved adorably. They were all listening
To a song that had made them weep before. All the old men
were weeping together.

from Poets Respond
January 29, 2019


Bailey Cohen: “With so much happening relating to the government shutdown these past couple weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the image of the Congressperson, and how more established members react when someone in a position of power subverts that image (see: freshmen Democratic congresswomen). I also started thinking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter lessons to other members of congress, how she told them not to try to act like something they weren’t, but to be true to themselves online (“If you like to garden, tweet about gardening,” on the Colbert Show). This made me start imagining a possibility in which lawmakers were allowed to put their politics aside, and be vulnerable with each other. I’m very interested in this vulnerability.” (web)

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