“Ears” by Miller Oberman

Miller Oberman


Days like this, I hate to admit I remind myself of my father,
who used to wake me, school days, five minutes before my alarm
buzzed, saying, Well, it’s another beautiful day. How despicable I found
his enthusiasm as I dragged on my blacks and went to high school.
It was all so clear. I could hear so perfectly then, like now,
when the muffled forms that lurk in the dull dusk beyond
perception instead rush against my ears, throttling out of caves like bats.
This morning I had the wax sucked out of my ears with a tiny
vacuum and now New York is sound studded, my ears two disco
balls catching and reflecting even the most minute waves.
The wax itself glowed dark as Mars and would’ve overflowed a thimble.
Now everything is loud and consequential, the scream of hawks
over the East River, cab tires chirping against the curb.
Back at work, Eugene’s letter rubs between Leon’s and Gertrude’s,
whirring like the finest sandpaper. I can hear the fizz in my seltzer
surge up, oceanic. I had to call Stanley Katz and tell him
sir, your credit card was declined and he cleared his throat so raucously
I bent the phone slightly away from my head and poor Stanley,
of a certain age said CAN YOU SPEAK UP and I did, but it wasn’t enough.
I wanted to tell him my ENT’s name, Kacker; it is so satisfying
to say Kacker, to cut that hard K twice with the root of your tongue
against your palate. To realize, again, the joy in, as I’ve been accused
of more than once, the sound of my own voice. Even the clack
of the adding machine in my cubicle isn’t that bad, as Cathy
bangs away at it, softened, as it is, by the gentle thrum of the cables
in the elevator shaft and the relentless grind of the paper shredder,
chewing what is too sensitive to be kept.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010


Miller Oberman: “When I was a kid I’d go to the library and check out thirteen books, which was the most you were allowed. I started writing because it seemed like the best way to speak back to those I was listening to. In 8th grade I read Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Edge’ and at the end when she writes ‘Her blacks crackle and drag,’ I was a goner, a poet.” (web)

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