Glass above my bed vibrates from the bass
pouring out of twelve inch speakers,
and I almost don’t mind being jolted awake
because I know this song. It’s not a favorite song
but I know it. Sometimes that’s plenty.
Sometimes I need more
rattle from the cabinet, a thrumming
lawnmower out there, the sound
of my twin sister snoring in the next room.
And when that’s not enough
I might take off my shirt,
press my back against a refrigerator—
one of those beige monsters
you can feel working for its hum. A humming
bird draws nectar in my thoughts, wings
beating eighty-something times per second
but it’s nowhere near here. Been a few summers
since I’ve stopped listening for bees.
A study says that cell phones near hives
confuse honeybee signals, their natural technology
too outmoded for a message from my dad
vibrating in my pocket to not make a drone
go haywire and spiral into the grass.
Is that enough?
Then what about your Chrysler that idles
so hard it tickles you from thigh
to earlobe? There’s always a hymn
waiting for ears. A Tibetan singing bowl
looking for an audience. A vibraphone
that begs to collide over and over
with the yarn-tipped mallets you hold.
And even when you were young and smirking
and the clerk was definitely afraid of you,
the tremble of his hand made your change jingle,
a little tune made of fear, just for you. Remember
the plastic kazoos buzzing in our mouths
at the spring chorale presentation?
I still remember
Elementary science, Mrs. Reese telling us to read
the whole sentence before trying to fill its blanks.
We learned to say umm
as a placeholder for answers, as in: “Hearing,
the only sense that is completely mechanical,
occurs when sound travels the umm ,
vibrates your eardrum, and is amplified
by the umm , a group of tiny bones.”
Originally published in Michigan Quarterly Review