The Sound

everyone heard the sound all at once...occuring in different spaces for each individual.
some heard A sound...some, sounds, and for many folks..things they’d never heard before.
a few even heard for the first time in their for
some, on stage in the spotlight for others...all variating in
significance to accomodate that mystical place where close meets up with distance.
where chaos and order are one and the same.

no two sounds were the same.
assumptions went unchallenged and to this day, no one has ever tried to figure it all out. we all simply accepted it.
many called it a miracle.
i call it...the sound.

there were those who heard the drone of great flying insects humming and buzzing overhead, while a couple walking on a bridge recognized a pair of lovers beneath them arguing about how the other kisses.
kids playing ball in the street all claim they heard the smash and impact of vehicles colliding and the bent-metal ripping snap of
bone and the twist of injured flesh...the hiss and fissure of
radiator fluids, and the surround-sound distortion of belligerent
traffic, commotion, sirens, so forth.
someone heard the sound of a parachute opening, a baby suckling from its mother’s breast, or a pine cone falling on wet forest leaves.
someone else heard loud breaking glass against a cement wall, yet another person, deaf from birth, felt the free, easy canter of hoofbeats
echo from across an open field as horses were chased by the tease and thunder from a sudden summer rainstorm...and a woman exiting a pharmacy in London claims it was “the loud rumbling churning of an

empty stomach, i’m bloody sure of it!”...and a cop just getting home from his beat heard the quick hard slap of dead wet skin a naked body
makes when it falls upon a cold, hard-tiled hotel lobby floor, dropped from a balcony. some, it was the obnoxious blaring buzzer at a
rowdy hockey game in the icy-air blast of a sports arena
at Boston Garden.
some heard crying, someone heard laughter...still a few heard
donald trump cutting a fart.....or a humpback whale passing ‘neath the
island of nantucket, bellowing for its mate, who strayed away from the family and became lost and missing for eighteen hours....finally heard each other, acknowledged and reunited...

someone heard the sudden startle of game birds groused from the security of their swamp-marsh reverie....while her husband related hearing the pernicious flutter of a wasp, or a yellow-jacket, bouncing
on the bedroom ceiling in the dark of he quickly and quietly
got out of bed and vaulted himself safely in the bathroom....the hairs on his neck prickling with fearful helplessness!
workers hanging roof at a construction site heard the metered
pound and thrust of a phantom subway train “speeding like
the devil just inches past our steel-tip boots from the edge
of our wooden platform”...while some journeymen electricians
on the ground still claim they heard time itself decompress
into a liberated splash of tin buckets filled with clear
drinking water....although one dude said he heard a jack-
hammer drilling against the cold dank blackness of an
invisible sleep.

across town, in Baptistown, New Jersey, a young woman in her late
twenties, who had recently lost a tremendous amount of weight after being fat since she was sixteen, turned her attractive head to listen to
an angry drunken man being arrested and cuffed, and some cub scouts
in the woods just heard each other giggling as they leafed through a
stash of dirty magazines.
many miles away, a cable repairwoman descending a telephone pole
stopped momentarily to hear a bunch of boys giggling somewhere
behind someone’s house nearby, despite the fact that it was four-a.m.
with dawn approaching, and she was servicing a warehouse that

was filled with wooden-pallettes and devoid of any work crews at that
hour of the morning...and also thought she heard some faint whispering
in-between the lascivious snickering and rustle of pages being
turned; upon reaching the ground, she stepped on a bright

yellow neckerchief with a metal slide attached.“how the hell?” she picked it up....the slide fell and she heard it hit the

crimper-tool on her belt...although she couldn’t find where it
went; “fuck.” she said outloud.

people all over the world heard termites burrowing into a piece of rotting door, where they were placing dead ant carcasses for future
use...but as to what use the dead ants would be, neither God nor the termites had a clue. they were joyous, in their Isoptera/termite-way, having defeated an invading army of black carpenter ants.
being without sight, the termites heard the ants approach well enough to prepare themselves for the twenty-minute battle. the ants were over-
confident and therefore, outnumbered.
the termites had their way with the ants as if they were farmers bailing hay with pitchforks.
but now all they could hear was their own soft, shuffling bodies
bumping into each other blindly...”is that you, Amos? Here, grab my antennae...where the hell are we?”

...then there were the common sounds people heard throughout the entire cosmological structure of the universe...
.....liquid being poured into a glass...
...a dog licking his balls in the middle of the night, as he sits on
a couch he’s not allowed to be on...
an elementary school band playing a rough rendition of The Colonel Bogey March, as they marched like disordered colored ants through town on Memorial Day, 1944..
...inmates of “F” block at a prison heard jovial, celebratory
praise and accolades to persons unknown, and the guards heard
it, too.

..there was the squeeky whine of an iron gate being opened or the deep
grumbling cadence of a plastic dumpster being wheeled out to the street in time for the garbage truck, heard squealing and clamouring in the next street, the hydraulic lift and emptying of its giant, grab-and-capture waste-disposal system...
i heard sylvia plath speak to me from the afterlife, and recite her poem
“cut” for me...and the words “...dirty girl, thumb stump” still mystified me...
and of course, someone blowing their nose too hard, with its Bronx cheer muffle against tissue and snot..
...the sound of someone getting a blow-job, deep-throat sucking
noises and a guy moaning his sexual vocabulary...
“ohh baby...yeah...suck it baby....oh yeah that’s sooo good!”.....
...the choking of a woman with her air supply blocked by a guy’s
fat cock rudely shoved without warning down her throat...
...a balloon sputtering air across a room and its tiny
slappy sound of dead rubber on a kitchen floor...
a fart at the dinner table and a child’s raucous laughter
and then the smack of someone’s hand across
his face......

...predictably, a retired, lonely schoolteacher suddenly opened her eyes
to hear a rubber-band snap and a first-grader yell “Ouww! My ear!”....
...a lot of folks at confession heard the wondrous cascading crash of
ocean waves against rocks...and the receding undertow of foam and
tidal currents...
famous people heard unfamous sounds...and the invisible citizenry of our nefarious underworld all heard something familiar to them, yet set in a syllabic discourse of 4/4 rhythm and free verse beat poetry, circa 1955.....
...some old folks at a nursing home heard their hearing-aids squeal from the volume turned up too high...but it sounded more like sneakers on a gymnasium floor during a basketball game they attended when
they were in high school...with a hundred stomping feet on clanky
wooden bleachers...
...a sneeze, a cough, a crying person, a burp, a cat being squashed to death...
...a dog awoke startled from his sleep to hear a lightbulb pop and
explode the broken fragments into the porcelain sink...
...and a priest in Mexico heard the unmistakable loud
splatter of someone pissing against a cardboard box... a cancer patient who’d died moments earlier heard

the sounds of a tree crashing, its limbs cracking, and the canopy

whoosh of them falling to the to a
pine-cone which had fallen just precisely at the time the deceased body’s vital organs ceased all

religious figureheads all over the world purported to hear a psychiatric
cacophony of unearthly messages originating from someplace deep in our future, reminding them that all true saviors are not created but born....and a couple of farmers heard their crops grow into puberty.

a gentlemen from Vietnam came up to me and excitedly
chimed in sing-song faltering english that he’d just heard
the clang of Christmas bells and then the skid of tires that
took the life of a three-year old girl he’d molested years
...a cow grazing stupidly in a field full of its own shit heard the
splinter-and-smash of someone kicking in a door, with the
crunch of hard-soled shoes punching through a desperate hole,
as another cow lifted its head to hear the person on the other
side of the door yell ”come an’ get me, mothafucka! i gotchya
fuckin’ money....up yer ass!”
neither animal knew what the sounds were and
could care less...they returned to munching on the lush
green grass, with great amounts of chewy, saliva-froth
dripping silently from their white, pink-lipped jaws....

...that same moment, a cat walking nearby stopped and raised
its tail to listen to a pile of books fall off a shelf in a deserted
library building in the middle of the night...

...a retarded man in his thirties tried to write his name
on the stall of a public toilet as he heard the violent gasp of a forest fire rage across acres of Arizona wilderness,
and the animal screech of pain and frantic death
of dying.

an opera diva in Florence, Italy heard an out of tune
Stradivarius being played in the dank empty resonance of a
men’s bathroom, somewhere in the east rockies of Colorado....

...a five-minute old infant heard someone fall down stairs, then
laugh...while a five-hundred a night hooker in Amsterdam
heard her own arches falling, although she had no legs..
...a boy with leprosy and a runny nose noticed a dull
ghostly thumping from inside the walls of his bedroom,
while he waited in line to see the ninth sequel to “The
Terminator”... entitled “a termite ate her... the musical!”...
and remembered how cool it would be if he could stitch
his own diseased body parts back together....

...and there were sounds of a pipe organ, the echo of a hammer
dropping to the floor on a theater, stage right, floorboards old
with the creaking, ghostly noises of people masturbating,
fucking, making love, couples breaking up breaking wind
breaking the sound barrier, breaking the silence of the bland

...a prelate monk at a Buddhist monastery prayed to his
god as he heard sirens, horns, yelling, screaming
children, zings, pops, twangs, barking dogs, stalking
leopards, ravens cawing, water gurgling, a tornado ripping
a young girl’s arm off at the shoulder...whispers,
murmurs, singing, and complaining mobs of people
returning merchandise to a Target store in New
...there was the noisy sound of a cell door clanging shut for the
next twenty years, a cigarette being lit somewhere in Tokyo, a
zipper unzipping, a jet aircraft, an airplane crashing, the crash
of methamphetamine junkies attempting to sleep...a shot of a
pistol heard in a dream, and the brutal electronics of an
electric guitar banging into a 1200 watt amp...creating
feedback as loud as trains crashing into trains.

everywhere everyone all at once heard something meant
for them alone...or the sound of flies...or another cow mooing...
or maybe someone getting spanked in the hotel room
next door...

a gaggle of pre-teen girls snickering at made-up rumors, with
their little stick legs and thigh-high skirts bumped awkwardly
into metal folding chairs during a chorus rehearsal at a junior
high school...
and the buzzer ending fourth period and announcing
...the gasp of ‘white noise’ over phone lines across most of
central artists, that would be the sound
equivalent of ‘negative space’, emanating from history’s
greatest paintings...
the sound of curtains blowing from an open window,
bedsheets rustling in one’s sleep...

some actually heard Nothing come to life in their lives as
damaged eardrums rendered them totally deaf, and unable or
unwilling to hear as well.

a cashier in a busy seafood restaurant thought she heard a
well-dressed man in a tuxedo ask for help with his zipper,
as a theater critic dressed IN a tuxedo thought he heard a
cashier ask him “what?”

someone heard the sighs of a woman just finishing giving birth...
some heard the screams of her got itself out, feet first.
there were sounds of lawnmowers on a saturday afternoon in
anywhere and everywhere, suburbia, earth...little kids laughing,
disobeying their parents, trying to be quiet and not get caught...
...a car popping exhaust spit and its curse to the civilized world!

oodles of sentient humans definitely remember hearing their
kindergarten teacher reciting “the alphabet song” for the first time...
or the soft padding of fingers reading braille from an oversized
art text in a dark place in a public library...
...the aerodynamic whispers of sign language explaining
marcel proust to a graduate college lit. the janitor
passing by the lecture hall recalled during my interview,
“i thought i heard my old grandmother ask me, three years ago,
‘what is that smell? is something burning?’ as i turned down my
CD player to listen to a calypso percussionist at a cuban wedding...someplace in havana,or maybe puerto rico...
wherever there are cuban weddings, i guess...”

...and a blind man heard his toilet overflowing and could swear
to god it called to him by name and say “you’re not blind, you fool, you just don’t see!”
...gasoline was heard splashing to the ground from a bad job of
tapping off...
...a few old people heard themselves thinking out loud as
others reacted and said “Yeah, for sure, i need to get myself
laid, too!”
and interestingly...there WERE christmas bells ringing in
Vietnam, with the patter of elves full of fatigue and frozen,
tiny, underpaid feet.

a spousal abuser on a drunk, whiskey high heard two women breathing “funny, gasping, squeaking breaths” from inside a health club weight room he helped design years prior when he was sober
and in love with his wife for the right reasons...a cigarette being
lit by a cardboard matchstick....a restaurant kitchen during
a busy holiday lunchtime....cop car lights flashing, blinking,
swirling and a firm voice say: “PUT YOUR FUCKING HANDS
...a television turning itself on, and old iron radiators straining
with warm heat making them clack throughout older, haunted,
four-story houses in Boston and ‘paaarts’ of Cambridge,
Massachusetts...where i, myself, heard the sound of a
single cockroach climbing on my kitchen wallpaper, just
a moment before its death by newspaper...along with
the quick fast swack! designed just for her,
and her thousands of unborn eggs...

...the little noise of a communion wafer tapping on the gold- plated grail in the handsof a priest...
...the ‘whiish’ of prayerbooks closing at an Easter Sunday
...dirty talk of derelicts watching x-rated porno flicks
while smoking speed with underage girls and boys...

..more gunshots, chewing of gum, the ice-cold in-and-exhale of
december’s breath blowing sprays of sharp mist against the
languid solitude of a north canadian dusk-till-dawn, do-or-die ice- fishing competition...more birds saying ‘good morning’...
...the breaking SLAP! of a yardstick upon the desk of a sleeping
student flunking math class.

a doctor performing surgery stopped to listen to the whirring
hummum of a thousand washing machines as he himself counted
fifty-three with unbalanced loads...
....while his nurse reported in her notes the tremendous
blasts of noxious polluted air as it sucked through the fly-window
of her parents’ car during childhood trips to visit
grandma...on those tedious four-hour trips to brooklyn.
yes indeed......there were heard orchestrations of folks yelling
exhalted prayers and comparisons into each other’s ears as
driftwood fragments of human language suspended like stray
feathers from old pillows created landmines of bad grammar
and lazy syntax...competing with varying degrees of
vocalized pronouncements full of angst, pride, confusion,
and were heard crystal-clear annunciations, ambiguities, fearful comprehensions, interpretations... ...enchanting, beguiling and often high-decibel suggestions emanating from the insides of Lazy-Boy chairs, or from the stray threads of unclaimed linens and clothing...
or from the flotsam jettisoning from discordant choirs full of conviction and the cacophony of
well-scripted bullshit.

occur in unison as in chaotic a thousand
paintings of a thousand photos of a thousand obsolete words
to a thousand songs not heard in a thousand years....
...the aesthetic snapping of dry twigs...someone undressing
by a creek in the dark....lake water lapping upon the shoreline...
...a beaver swimming in his stream, leaving the silent
wake of his paddle-tail rippling behind..

...flatware tingling against diamond plates...
...the strum of flamenco guitars and a contessa stomping out
a rough spanish dance on a hardwood cabaret stage..
...the crush of potato chips, the remembered soundtrack of a
forgotten childhood...
...the snapping of a brastrap by a frisky boyfriend...the magical harmony of all things considered, refitted,and permitted to roam in the natural music one makes as a kid.

a rich spoiled brat bragged that “it sounded like my nanny
when she breaks wind in the morning, only louder...
... and it didn’t stink”.
...the burning cigarette sizzle thrown into the piss-and
battlefield of a men’s urinal..
...the wack! smack! and crack! of a baseball bat and
a run and slide into first!
...the roar, pomp and circumstance of witnessing your own
birth, hearing yourself wail and cry, and getting it all
on tape! with the blank tape application we all bring
with us as we’re born...and we usually get to
choose our own soundtrack!

... some people even heard illuminating, mesmerizing voices
coming from the stuffing of children’s furniture, or from articles
of discarded minutiae and leftover living arrangements strewn about a deceased person’s home.. most of it was heard quite audibly and clearly and sometimes
turned out to be cans of this-and-that, food items, containers and
satchels filled with other fantastic noisy items of esoteric and incomprehensible value to anybody except the listener...

...and there were the enormous sounds of refrigerator doors all slamming shut at the precise instant a bird dropped its load
on an open café setting of sterling silver utensils
and expensively owned server-ware intended for a formal luncheon engagement.

..the barely perceptible ringing of a church
tower bell in a forest-enclave in eastern Germany,
some two-hundred years ago...

...and of course the usual ordinary sounds many heard of
others taking shits, vomiting, spitting, spitting-up, gagging,
purging, lurching and predictably, along with the predictable
groans and moans and sighs of relief, the straining, grunts and
talking-to-one’s self...and inevitably the incredible
“fart heard ‘round the world!”

then it stopped as it had begun. suddenly. with little drama.
all sound gave way to total silence for a moment...everywhere.
“the sound” and all that it was, disappeared dissolved faded-out
disconnected turned-off put-on-pause and vanished dismembered
disembodied itself and discorporated from our ears, our minds, from all audible perceptions of why we exist...
it hailed a cab, hitched a ride, boogie-ied on
outta here, there, and from whence it became.

it found a new audience, reached its demise, amiably de-parted,
de-planed, deserted, and disassociated from the mental skyport
of our horizons, and our dreams... itself and defabricated and
ceased to ended but didn’t die...
it ‘not died’’s not’s still alive,
just ‘not there’.....anymore. nevermore.

it became the silence of the hands.
the hands of God?
the sound of God?

then the ragtime nail of banjos raced and plucked with the
wind to smile on all of us...
...and a tuba oom-paa’d from an upstairs club&eatery where
tourists breathed and fumbled and danced with loud abandon!
and they screwed and loved and rebirthed themselves and
thought about tomorrow....and didn’t think about tomorrow...
...drinking and singing, and watched each other
listen...listening, waiting, and wondering if and when
there might occur, at any moment in time...
the rapture of yet another great surprise.

Russell J. Sether
(6/97 - 9/98)

Poem Copyright ; 1998 Russell J. Sether. All Rights Reserved.

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Copyright ; 1998 Elisa Terranova. All Rights Reserved.