When rubbed or struck, are you sonorous? When blown into or sucked, are you sonorous? When sonorous, are you a tone-modifying vessel? Do you possess a magical appeal when sonorous? If when sonorous and sent pulsating into a funnel or tube, do your lips buzz, your mind failing to reason?
for The Doctor
With a name like Tecumseh, you probably have a future in voice work. We assume you fry the end of your sentences with a tremolo so deep and so vibratory that people inevitably perform some kind of frivolous waltz as they cross a room to greet you. Say something revelatory next time this happens. Talk until you mean something.
Your voice comes to us through the corrugated weather like a muted prayer from a mosque. Your voice comes to us through the corrugated weather like a muted prayer from a mosque. Your voice comes to us through the corrugated weather like a muted prayer from a mosque. Your voice comes to us through the corrugated weather like a muted prayer from a mosque. Your voice comes to us through the corrugated weather like a muted prayer from a mosque.
In your search for cosmic heroism, you’ve neglected those closest to you. Just one glance at your rhododendrons reveals what concerns us most: how ostentatious and repetitive their flowering is!
Even if your denial is a secret you can’t reveal even to yourself, its sublimity is meaning enough.
Don’t be alarmed, but we’ve hired a physicist. We were initially disturbed by his findings: Of the listeners who encountered a backbeat or counter rhythm underneath seemingly simple scores, his findings were inconclusive; of the listeners who’d forgotten what it meant to be a listener, his findings were demonstrative. When he looked very closely at your data, we lost all contact. There’s evidence from his profile that someone is still listening there, but we can’t locate the actual “man.” His data is now your data. His song, a gradient below normal registers.
The directorate has decided not to explain just how any of this works. We think it’s unwise to remove the mystery. The ‘how’ is unimportant. The ‘why’ and its causal relationships really shouldn’t apply here. It just ‘does’ or ‘is’. We think the way you feel right now is explanation enough, even if you’re somewhat unmoored or otherwise adrift. There is a community in all of this listening, a context you’ll continue to reimagine, even if you’re unwilling to surrender just yet.
We accidentally recorded this conversation between you and a confidant:
You:Such superlative gifts will bring such superlative rewards! Her:Who said that? You:Genesis “Azukal” Servania. Her:Oh yeah, the Columbian master of the villanelle! You:No, the Filipino bantamweight with the crushing left hook. Her:Oh, tone! Oh, mood! You of abstraction, you of atmosphere, so filled with the unknown and the universal, we breathe you in until everyone sings! You:Gotta be Whitman. Her:Nope, Joe Louis.
What’s a glottal stop?
Since all of our combined suggestions might resemble a song representing your paranoiac visions, our research team’s theorizing has ended, and all the safeguards we normally have in place will cease hereafter. Switches were un-toggled. Bed springs relaxed and buttons long since depressed have eased back into existence. No one really knows what you will sing next.
Michael Brooks Cryer teaches writing at Arizona State University. His poems and reviews have appeared in Quarterly West, Ecotone, DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Shenandoah and other journals. He is also an occasional freelance music critic for Phoenix New Times. Four Chambers Press released his chapbook, Channels, Frequencies & Sequences, the summer of 2017. Cryer’s poetry collection, Selected Proverbs, won Elixir Press’2016 Antivenom Poetry Award.