Saturday Poem


George Foy stayed in the anechoic chamber
for 45 minutes and nearly went mad.
He could hear the blood rushing in
his veins and began to wonder if he was
hallucinating. He had been to a monastery,
an American Indian sweat lodge,
and a nickel mine two kilometers underground.
In the anechoic chamber, the floor’s design
eliminates the sound of footsteps.
NASA trains astronauts in anechoic chambers
to cope with the silence of space.
Without echo, in the quietest place on earth,
what else can we hold onto? What replaces sound
in concert with what you see? The human voice,
the timber when a person says kamsahamnida
or yes, please, or fuerte, is 25 to 35 decibels.
Hearing damage can start around 115 decibels.
Metallica, front row, possible damage
albeit possible love. The Who, 126 decibels.
A Boeing jet, 165 decibels. The whale, low rumble
frequency and all, 188 decibels, can be heard
for hundreds of miles underwater.
I once walked around inside a whale heart,
which is the size of a small car. The sound
was like Brian Doyle’s heart that gave out
at 60 after he wrote my favorite essay
about the joyas voladoras and the humming
bird heart, the whale heart, and the human
heart. Glass can break at 163 decibels.
Hearing is the last sense to leave us.
Some say that upon death, our vision,
our taste, our touch, and our smell
might leave us, but some have been
pronounced dead and by all indication
are, but they can hear. In this moment,
when the doctor pronounces the time
or when the handgun pumps once more,
what light arrives? What sounds, the angels?
The Ultrasonic Weapon is used for crowd
control or to combat riots—as too many
humans gathered in one place for a unified
purpose can threaten the state. The state
permits gatherings if the flag waves. Sound
can be weaponized or made into art.
It can kill. It can heal a wound. It is
a navigation device and can help determine
if the woman has a second heart inside of her
now, the beating heart of a baby on the ultrasound,
a boy or a girl, making a new music in the body
of another body, a chorus, a concert, a hush.

by Lee Herrick
from Scar and Flower,
Word Poetry, 2019.