Derek Mong

The Undecided Voter

​Look for me in the stillness preceding
your footsteps, in the hand

hovering over a tray of desserts.
My shadow angles at any given hour

toward the largest gaggle of people still
milling around. Would you please

buy me your drink? We’ve met
in the hiccup between cable stations

but lean now into this tavern’s laughter
and wonder: will it lift us like a wave?

My preference is to prefer nothing.
You ask to swap past lives like hot air.

From my childhood I remember
other children. From high school I learned

how abstinence seduces till it’s gone.
This will be apparent if you follow me

home. See my front door, faded
from such eager knocking. See my voicemail

ticking its red numbers north.
My whispers (come closer, come listen)

make poll graphs quiver like tantalized
nerves. Will you consider spending the night?

The still air reminds you of all you’ve not said.

Derek Mong  is the author of two collections from Saturnalia Books, Other Romes (2011) and The Identity Thief (forthcoming, 2018), and the poetry editor at Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, & Translation. He recently completed a PhD at Stanford University, writing on marriage in the lives and afterlives of Whitman and Dickinson. A former Axton Poetry Fellow at the University of Louisville and Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, he now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and son. He has received the Editors’ Choice Prize from the Missouri Review and two Hopwood Awards. New poetry, criticism, and translations have appeared (or will soon appear) in the Kenyon Review, Poetry Northwest, Printer’s Devil Review, Laurel Review, Chariton Review, Lunch Ticket, and the Gettysburg Review. He can be reached at