Jesse Graves

We sat on wooden benches outside  
the humanities building, and talked
about Nietzsche and the poems of Yeats, 
twentieth century international novels, 
the indie legacies of punk rock.  
Our rotating cast always included
someone who thought the 1960s
were the golden era, and someone  
who thought they sent America to hell.   
We were dreamers awake in a dream, 
laboring to impress our professors, 
to articulate a longing for clean articulation, 
for feelings exalted enough to put to words.  
We were not at war with anyone. 
We scoffed at frat boys with ball caps
flipped backward, turned our noses up  
at marketing majors and future advertisers, 
enslaved already to money they would make. 
We were not at war, we had no national debt, 
we talked with the fantastic pretensions  
of young people wild with books, 
who loved to sit outside on bright fall days  
real freedom defending us from the future. 

Jesse Graves is the author of two collections of poetry, Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine (2011), and Basin Ghosts (2014). He was awarded the 2014 Philip H. Freund Prize for Creative Writing from Cornell University, and the 2015 James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He is Associate Professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at East Tennessee State University.