Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Maya Perhaps Hears

The following poem is by one of my favorite poets, Lisel Mueller. It makes me think about Maya's alertness and her truck and bus phobia...the way she raises a cautionary paw when she hears the rumble of a big engine from blocks away, ducks her head, and if she's on a leash, starts "swimming" on the pavement trying to pull as fast and as hard as she can to get away. If she's not on a leash she makes a break for it. She looks behind her to see if we're following her to safety, but if we're not coming fast enough she pretty much says, "Screw you; I'm saving myself," and keeps running.

In a way I can understand...have you seen those tracker trailers with the jaws painted on the front grill? And the buses I used to take to high school drove 65 miles an hour down quaint, residential streets. The drivers used to hit street signs along the way and one guy hit a car and would have kept driving if a kid on the bus didn't start yelling, "That was my brother's car!" I was afraid of buses too. I can only imagine what they sound and look like to Maya with her heightened senses. I wonder what else she can hear "above that shut-off level of our simple ears."

What the Dog Perhaps Hears
By Lisel Mueller

If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us,
then silence is perhaps

the sound of spiders breathing

and roots mining the earth;

it may be asparagus heaving,

headfirst, into the light

and the long brown sound

of cracked cups, when it happens.

We would like to ask the dog

if there is a continuous whir

because the child in the house

keeps growing, if the snake

really stretches full length

without a click and the sun

breaks through the clouds without
a decibel of effort,
whether in autumn, when the trees

dry up their wells, there isn't a shudder
too high for us to hear.

What is it like up there
above the shut-off level

of our simple ears?

For us there was no birth cry,

the newborn bird is suddenly here,
the egg broken, the nest alive,
and we heard nothing when the world changed.

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