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Susan Mitchell

``Sing me something'' is what the other keeps saying
night after night, regular as a pulse.

And when this one is alone, there's no problem.
He sings. He takes the lute-like
into his hands and plucks. Yes, he hears it.
What sounds like a sound. But when he opens his mouth,
it's different, it's the wrong sound.

Is it the acoustics inside
his head that make the difference? And who keeps
urging, making impossible demands
of him? ``Come on,''

the other one is saying like
a faucet dripping, like a branch beating the window.
The window in his head. He opens it.

``Come on, Caedmon, sing me hwaethwugu.'' Yes,
that's how it sounds, like another
language, like gibberish, like
talking in his sleep. Remember the eensy-weensy

spider that climbed the water spout? That's how
he tries. His hands try. His lips.
It falls down. He tries. It falls down.
It's that regular. But when he makes it that regular
it's no good. It's not the same regularity.

I can't, he says, filling his mouth
with a big hole. Refusing, it begins for him.
Protesting, it swings itself up, it gets
going. It comes to him coming.

Or, it comes to her. What she lacks.
What hasn't happened in her
entire life, now it's coming, its absence
spread everywhere like a canyon in waves
of magenta and purple and gold.

The voice spreading before her. ``Forget
outside. Forget sky outside and clouds outside.''
This is what the voice spreads
before her, so she can look at what
it is saying. ``Forget heaps of dirt and yellowish brown
dust and gravel.'' She passes through it,

a rift in her thinking where she lingers
so deeply and long
when she comes out of it, she can't remember
any more than a chasm spilling upward, clouds curling
an ocean of sound putting out stems
and branches of coral
which bend, break off, tempting

her body to match their motions. For a long time
she hears herself doing it, or I
hear her doing it,
in slow pendulations swept along, the bride

in fetishistic foams and lace. The sound expanding
and stretching, blowing out
like bubble gum or Silly Putty.

The way a child flattens its nose and lips
against the glass of an aquarium
she pushes up against or I push up against
but when I go to say it, it sounds
different, hostile or angry with me, as if

I had seen
a gate opening in the dark
above my bed, a trellis on which light
grew and put out berries and thorns
of light and I

had blabbed instead of passing through.

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