Its tics and semi-voluntary drives, its mind-of-its-own mispronunciations, its tendency to get lost or become stranded, its foreignness, tripping too fast through syllables, that’s her voice, not mine. That voice made me receptive. That voice taught me the most important things: love, speech, fear, protest, sleep, reading, riding a bike, trust, the agony of trying to please. By phonic imperatives, a voice has the power to call my whole life into question. I am listening for it. The voice that calls without articulating language, opens my name, calls on me to respond, projects me. When I hear my mother’s voice now, it’s faceless. Smoking and grief have cut out its woman’s face. What’s left is heaved up from the deep bell of bottomlessness, a sequence of ruthless substitutions that finally emptied altogether, rung.
1Kandinsky, Vassily. Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Trans. M.T.H. Sadler (Mineola, NY: Dover, 1977) 38.
2Nancy, Jean-Luc. Listening. Trans. Charlotte Mandell (New York: Fordham UP, 2007) 17.
3Proust, Marcel. Rememberance of Things Past, vol 1. Trans. C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin (New York: Vintage, 1981), 870.
4Pritchard, Normal H. “ ” ” in The Matrix Poems: 1960-1970 (Garden City,NJ: Doubleday & CO, 1970) 187.
5Paraphrased from "Noisetone" in The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest. (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2007).