sound effects

Monday, July 11, 2011

listen: the people caught near love
       canal, in the nevada desert, around
the ukraine city pripyat can tell you
       the sounds that precede catastrophe,

can teach you to train your ear on
       a spring filled with caterpillars,
cranes, bulldozers, drills, cement
       mixers, every building machine

you can’t even hear yourself think
       of. the sound of clay caps being laid
over barrels in a forgotten grave,
       of entrances to underground testing

facilities clanging shut, of alarms
       trying their panicked tongues, and
safety valves wrenched into place.
       and before those, the human-scale

sounds of thick reports dropping
       like tombstones onto legislators’
and regulators’ desks, the polite
       hum of lobbyists’ voices through

the opaque haze of public hearings,
       the echoing reverberations of stats
and studies and guarantees as tall
       as tales of the fountain of youth,

and as thin, within (and propped up
       by) those unread stacks of paper.
the catastrophe itself vibrates on
       a much lower frequency. at times

it is announced with a great fanfare
       of fiery explosions, but the booming
is not the disaster, nor the hot red-
       orange flag crackling in the charcoal

wind. the disaster follows—or makes
       its approach unheralded—in dead
silence. the soundless strain of despair
       pulling on the nerves that connect

the brain to the unbearable. the less
       than quietness of chemicals seeping
into water, radiation emanating with
       the brilliant hush of the sun. listen:

we know how birth sounds—but
       what is the sound of a birth defect?
there are no bombs in the wars our
       cells wage upon themselves at such

toxic emissions’ urging. no birdsong
       accompanies the ungrowing spring.

                            —for fukushima

Friday, July 1, 2011