When the World Went Deaf . . .


. . . the music did not die,
but the memory of “Music as It Had Been” passed away,
when the present generation slipped from consciousness

Hands spoke,
and body language and facial expressions
bespoke the tone in this wordless new world.

People began to notice nuances,
for their attention was undivided
by the flap of flip-flops,
the pitter-pat of raindrops,
the ringing alerts on their electronic devices.
Every wrinkle was remembered;
eye colors were remembered in detail.

Babies born would still cry and babble,
their words without form but not void,
for everyone spoke the same language now.
Laughter still poured out like candy from a broken piñata,
but the art of language was sometimes lost in translation.

Dexterity in fingers became precise,
like the words that were no longer heard.
Eyesight sharpened.
Bead workers beaded with ease.
The sound of a pin dropping went unnoticed.

Sheet music—
being an antique form of communication,
an ancient language—
wallpapered bathrooms in bed and breakfasts,
even as stringed instrument cases became bassinets
for silver-spoon fed babies.
Cellos were fashioned into lamps,
violins, a curious sort of wall ornament,
and harps, sculptures.
Clarinets, oboes, and piccolos became vases
for flowers whose fragrances sang.
Doorbells became door lights that lit up a room.

Hymns became poetry,
and sermons flashed on a screen.
Movement became the music,
though everywhere sounded like everywhere else.
The great opera houses became stages
for the art of the dance.
Sparklers replaced applause,
and auditoriums were lit up like white dwarves—
a candlelight vigil on carbonation.

Partygoers would place their hands on pianos at dinner parties,
and the musicians remaining from this sensory apocalypse
would play the notes they knew from bygone days,
for humankind craved vibrations.
Kinetic activities became the new aural pastime.
Musicians were prized for their gift,
for they set the ground on fire with the pulses of their notes—
at decibels not loud enough to shatter eardrums
but champagne flutes.
Barefoot, the people could feel what they could not hear.

Children outpaced their parents with their communication skills,
becoming the teachers—
the future—
ushering in these latter days,
for the world had adapted to this silent spring.

The clatter of teacups,
the clink of teaspoons,
the shatter of glassware,
the tinkle of silverware,

The taps from dance shoes were pressed into the plaster of the past,
castanets became Christmas ornaments,
and guitar picks and drumsticks ceased to exist.
We no longer shouted to our loved ones in the next room,
for we were already there.

There were smiles and soundless laughter,
for there was joy after a time,
even in the absence of the musical that is life,
bubbling up like an effervescent tablet in a too-full glass of water—
a celebratory champagne.

Those carried away by the waves could not shout,
so mothers watched their children as they swam in the surf.
People began to see the things they had missed:
the envy that could not be concealed with flattery,
the lust that declarations of friendship could no longer dispel,
the insecurity of the extrovert who talked to make himself heard.

Radio waves straightened as if blown-dry,
beeps on heart monitors shifted to switchboards reminiscent of a Lite-Brite,
and horns on cars became useless except to scare away the strays.
Dogs became the eyes and ears for the blind,
and fewer went without a home;
fewer children were born,
for so much of the world had lost their collective mind.

Those with schizophrenia heard voices they could not understand—
a scramble in the yolk that was inside their head.
The gestures, the word-scratch on a tablet by a kind nurse,
telling them the voices did not exist,
could not cast out the guttural demons.

In churches, there was the speaking in tongues—
seen, but not heard—
like the blind,
the homeless,
the little children who woke up in the night.

There were telepathic dreams—
visions without voice.
No one heard what they no longer had to.

Some turned to fists and stones,
for the right sign could not be found
to express what ate them up inside.

The day when all the cuckoos in clocks went crazy,
church bells clanged cacophonously,
and thunder boomed impending doom,
was the dawn of The Quiet Earth.

It was the last great symphony
before all went silent
but not forgotten
until the last Hearer died.

Originally published in The Kilgore Review, Pensacola State College, 2017

Thursday Evening

Her evenings were spent
not shuttling her child
to practice or lessons
or herself to the next job
but eating a home-cooked dinner
prepared by her husband,
watching “Wheel of Fortune,”
reading and singing to her daughter
and asking her the questions
only she could answer
but could not,
for her little girl
was a brightly-colored door
with a panel of frosted glass
that was shatter-proof
and a lock that was foolproof.
Sometimes this mom went to an event,
and sometimes she made it to the Y,
for she believed in getting your money’s worth
out of a gym membership,
not a buffet.
She was an anxious person,
understanding that just as some drank
to silence the voices,
she sometimes had to take a pill
to silence the stories–
a temporary solution to
“Writers’ Flow.”
She tried to remember to tell Jesus
to let her mom know she said, “Hi,”
but sometimes she forgot–
just as she forgot if she shampooed her hair
until she squeezed the green gel
known as Prell
into her hand
and her muscle memory kicked in.
She’d put the clothes in the dryer
and forget to turn it on,
take something out of the oven
and forget to turn it off.
She’d try to tamp down her anxiety
when having to watch a movie
without closed-captioning,
feeling mentally exhausted
trying to piece together
what she did hear.
Maybe being able to see the words
was why she had become a writer
and why,
when the hustle-bustle of the day
died down
and her little girl had been put down
for the night,
she could lose herself in all the words
she could not see.

A Persona of Grace


Grace Anna Goodhue,
a persona of grace.

Twas never church creeds,
but the spirit of the sermon
that lit the path beneath her feet,
leading her in music and song
that were her forms of worship,
education, her edification.

She taught those who could not hear
to read lips—
to learn the language of the perfect pitch.
She taught them how to live not just in their world,
but in the world around them,
so that they could be a part of both.

With an unspoken understanding,
she was to marry another,
but then she met Calvin
whose presence and poise
was most gentlemanly
with his quiet dignity.

She knew he needed her
more than she needed him,
and for seven days,
in the land of Montreal,
the man Calvin proved himself to be
ice to her fire.
She was his babbling brook
that bubbled over his still waters,
which would ripple all the way to Capitol Hill.

With her husband who spoke in silences,
she followed him,
even as he followed her.

As she listened to yarns on politics
behind closed doors,
she knitted away her anxiety,
ticking away the quiet.

The President’s equal, was Grace Anna—
his Florence Nightingale—
this lady with the knitting needle,
mightier than a sword.

She was a kindred suffragette—
a word that had always sounded
like a battered woman in a tattered dress.
When the right was recognized,
giving women the voice of men
to elect those who would rule over them,
she was there,
filling out an absentee ballot,
the flash of cameras dazzling in her depths.

An English rose, was this First Lady,
coming into the bloom of her time,
shining as the morning dew.

Like an archaeologist searching for an ancient language,
digging through tomes,
brushing them off like old bones,
she searched for a slice of herstory—
knowledge about the former mistresses
of the great, White House;
but, like the Bible in ways,
it was about the men who won the elections,
with the wives supporting them from behind,
raising their children,
doing what they did
so that their husbands could do what they did.

Though he never spoke of the issues of women,
he showed his respect in so many words,
in so many ways.
While he served the public,
she served the private,
her influence shielded like the veil of a widow,
a little light filtering through in times of his need.

Threads of conversation would unravel,
and she would pick up the ends,
knitting them back together.
Never did she want another to hear in him
what was unspoken—
a man in the greys of melancholy.

Like Cinderella,
she was the princess of the American palace,
with the mice family her friends—
a love for the underdogs,
be they mice or women.

And then, in July of 1924,
the smallest thing,
killed her son,
leaving her with one
who would live to the New Millennium.

It was Grace who would wipe her husband’s tears
with the lace of her handkerchief.

Of an open door, she would write,
her spirituality shining through it,
banishing the darkness that was her grief.

When Calvin said a depression was coming,
she thought of all people,
he would know.

When she became a widow,
spending the next quarter of a century of her life as such,
she spoke no longer of the man
whose voice she had been.

“For almost a quarter of a century she has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces.” 
–Calvin Coolidge

Source:  http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=31