“Alexander Graham Bell’s wife, whom he married the day after he patented the telephone, never did learn sign language. Or any other language.”
—Anne Carson, “The Gender of Sound”
Small electricities settle in the ear, a liquid, stubborn ringing.
The thrum of an insect shaking its wings. The mourners in a ring
around your grave, rippling like foxgloves tuning their bells to the wind.
And I know foxgloves thrill full and sad, because above them, thick rings
of scent shiver the air, the way your hands did when you played Bach
on the piano, and I held my palm above the keys to catch the pure ringing
of your fingers. My nerves are exact—I honed them to every one
of your frequencies. When you did not eat for days and rings
silvered below your eyes, I felt an alarm pulse deep in the bone.
Now even the slightest sparrow’s cry sets my blood to whispering.
I am going blind, my light shot clean through. It bleeds softly
as the shadows snake closer. Love, it’s like a hurt of smoke, a ring
of iron tightening. But I continue your experiments regardless.
I design cars for the sky, planes for water, an endless ring
of mechanical transformations. A catalogue of brilliancies, like your
wedding gift—1,500 shares of Bell stock, pearl necklace, gold ring,
little silver telephone. All the same, my lip-reading lacks in something—
the entire body speaking at once, like deaf children who wring
words from their hands effortlessly in the schoolyard,
a verb compassed in the casual arc of a wrist, the widening ring
of an arm. An unquiet silence. The phone is ringing, your voice
from the darkening earth – Mabel? The phone is not ringing.