Well, it's coming on Thanksgiving: 3/4 of my household has runny noses and the cases of the icks, and suddenly yesterday, for the first time in 30-something years, I have myself a raging ear infection. What better to celebrate flu season with a poem (which is also a poem of gratitude).
Yesterday, while you were dropping off the kids,
unbuttoning their coats, putting their lunches away, and
while I was beginning my day with Dickens and Shakespeare,
Infection began to fill my ear like smoke billows in a glass,
curling around the canal and creeping farther and farther in,
until I could no longer hear. At first, it was a mouth too close
to a microphone, the sensation of 10,000 feet up, when all sound
disappears into the body and one can only try to make sense of it.
But later, as you were talking with your coworkers about changes
in management, and as I was talking to
a student about time management,
the pressure became so great I thought the tiny hammer inside might rupture,
sound completely disappeared, and I worried. I don’t really know what
an ear drum looks like, but I kept imagining a rose,
scarlet and full, blossoming open and open until its petals bent backwards.
That, I thought, is what is happening in my ear.
Look, I said to the doctor, it’s a tiny fist about to open:
a shrapnel pomegranate ready to burst. And I can’t hear anything!
Welcome to my world, she smiled, the sides of her tongue trying to wrap themselves
around the ‘r,’ and I noticed that when she spoke, some consonants got stuck
in the back of her throat, or the hollow attic of her mouth.
How’s the pain? she asked, her eye against the probe in my ear,
but I knew not to reply until she could see my face again, read
my lips. I wanted to say excruciating, because what really hurt
Was the newfound sympathy I have for our infant son when his ears ache,
when he arches his back and writhes in pain, or for the deaf,
captives of a soundless world where hands dance in tandem with mouths to mean.
And more, the thought of not hearing you tell me that everything will be alright,
in the silence of the night, in the stillness of the blue-black room, the boy in my arms,
your hands on my face, like the deaf-mute’s teacher.