When I’m in a room full of people and everyone is talking at once, I often find myself in a kind of bodily hum, a state of vibration that is both pleasant and painful, as, say, a rock in a riverbed might feel when the spring melt has begun and it’s exposed to a new wave of sensation and song. The state is suspended when my attention is required in a specific conversation. When the conversation has run its course, it returns, and I am absorbed by the general commotion. I move from voice to voice, as if each were an instrument in a symphony. I’m captivated by faces, expressions, gestures, hands, eating, drinking, and the wealth of detail that contributes to the music being played. I have followed this pattern from childhood, always content to listen and observe, the only difference being, the painful aspect of the vibration is more prevalent now. This might indicate the degradation of my so-called faculties; or it might suggest the opposite, a gradual heightening, if you will, of my ability to process more information at once. Or it might be related to something else: something chemical, something in the water or air, or simply age and fried nerves. Whatever it is, I find it fascinating. And again, it should be noted that whenever my presence is required in these situations, I am always ready with an answer. The rapt ghost recedes, the body comes forward, the tongue is engaged, and the appropriate nonsense spews forth. I have been listening — too closely, perhaps, as well as to things that are not really there — which might be another way of saying that I have been listening with all of my senses, the number of which I am really not sure.
Mind Over Matter
If each sense is a window,
what about those birds
singing madly in the attic?
Poems, Slightly Used, December 4, 2008
When this poem was first published, an anonymous commentator said, “Cuckoos?” I replied, “Could be. Why don’t you climb up there and check?”