“What Small Sound” by Francesca Bell

Francesca Bell


In the audiologist’s booth I clutch the device with the button
I’m to press if I hear a tone, hand clammy, the way
a child holds the finger of an adult she thinks can save her. 

Behind the one-way glass, my ears are cupped in the pinching 
headset, cilia becalmed, the quiet so thick I cannot stop 
myself from thinking of Jupiter, its plentiful moons 

I’m afraid to look at through the telescope, the stillness out there strong
enough to suck me in. What small sound might those moons make, 
spinning in their vacuum, while I sit for what I know is too long 

between tones? I’m here to bear witness to this deafness 
that expands imperceptibly, the way the universe, they say, 
is expanding even as my world narrows, sound swirling round the drain 

of this loss. Into the silence of the audiologist’s booth 
fall consonants, vowels, rain against my windows, my lover’s voice 
disappearing like a star’s light being swallowed and swallowed as it dies. 

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021


Francesca Bell: “I first noticed that I had begun to lose my hearing when I was 24. I was especially attuned to hearing loss, having spent nearly my whole life watching my mother lose hers. My loss, thankfully, has not been as precipitous as my mother’s. She was in her 20s when she got her first hearing aids and is functionally deaf by now. I was able—with difficulty and with great forbearance on the part of my family—to make it to 50 before finally addressing my growing disability. I never take for granted the magic and the privilege of having hearing aids, the new ease they lend to my life, but I absolutely dread the hearing tests that are now part of my routine. I’ve seldom felt so acute an isolation as when I sit in the little booth trying to hear what I no longer can.” (web)

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