“To Tinnitus” by Donna C. Henderson

Donna C. Henderson


You could be crickets or midges,
whine of the wires inside the walls,
transmissions from distant stars, share
I can hear of the music of the spheres,
high frequency keen of a cathode-ray T.V.

Whatever you are, the soundtrack of my inner
existence consists of your high-pitched hiss;
while everything changes, unchangingly
you persist.

In the presence of humming appliances
(fridge in the kitchen, white noise machine
set on high in my waiting room)
you disappear awhile into the midst of these—
always with silence you slink back in.

Each day I wish you away,
and you answer—
                  not what I wanted to hear, its sound.

Maybe you are angels electric with witness,
lifting all sorrow that can’t be borne,
holding it slightly aloft as song?

The angels can’t save us from pain,
nor can they turn away—

Sorrow of sentience spread over centuries,
wouldn’t it sound like this high, thin wail?

If so, it is meaningful, yes, when I hear you
(I’m wrestling for a blessing here),
but yours doubles my trouble:

when listening for a living is what I do,
you’re what I listen beside, and through—

patients leave with their burdens
and I’m left with mine, with you.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010
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