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Dumb Show

By
March 2, 2009

 

The spine does its turtle charade
and the fingers can be counted on
to dance the spider dance or perform
the hummingbird and the tongue lolls
like a bear on sedatives long past
hibernation season, like a bear that wants
to kill something and eat it and would,
regardless of our loving anthropomorphizing,
if it wasn’t so narcotized. If this wasn’t so
familiar, if they weren’t so like us!,
we might ignore the bear sprawled
in our backyard, the spider spinning
out of control, the turtle nibbling
dog food, the hummingbird in a flap,
smacking at the window, aiming at
the nest of hair drifting by on its stalk
and bulb of flesh. If it wasn’t so inhumanly
unmoved, the tongue lying dormant
inside that bulbous human head
would rise up from the back row
of the dumb show of the body
miming some parable about paralysis
of vocal chords, which cannot be proven
and so must be an excuse for shyness
or self-censorship or crisis of faith
or traumatic memories or extreme
fear or some other technical difficulty.

This is not the first time the sound has cut out.
These are not the only symptoms. Not enough
animals remain in our purview to serve
description. A human face opening
and closing minus the sound of words
begins to effect a kind of rigor mortis,
according to Mr. Merleau-Ponty.
Try not to say the tongue plays dead
or sleeps like a tired simile with apnea.
Try not to accuse the technician
above your neck. Try to listen
to the not-you calling from the edge
of you. Try to cross over.

 

Suzanne Wise is the author of the poetry collection The Kingdom of the Subjunctive, published by Alice James Books. Her poems have also appeared in the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century and in various journals, most recently American Letters and Commentary.

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