Sounds in Sequential Order (Edit)
—after Ann Druyan’s classification of terrestrial sounds
for the Sounds of Earth record
Music of the Spheres
Frequencies get lean out here, echoing like abandoned ghosts
rattling the forgotten umbrellas & coatless hangers in the front
hall closet. Everyone just ghosted the minute the summonses
came & the exodus sounded like the stars Jansky didn’t mean
to record while he tried to fix the telephone lines. This part
of the sphere doesn’t have working phones, so where do we go
next? To the rooms of vacant advice & gilded paintings where
the have-it-alls live? To their quadrophonic systems & wood-
cheeked speakers? A golden record in a pulsar map & binary
arithmetic plays at 16 2/3 RPM as the record changer stacks
requests for traveling music. One LP settling on top of another
LP, a platter of orbits for the rest of the intergalactic Voyagers.
Volcanoes, Earthquakes & Thunder
The fact is the Earth doesn’t rest.
It spins & breaks like an LP stepped
on too many times. Polyvinyl chloride
backing up into itself—rawboned
slopes quaking in elemental underthings
when nobody is around to pray on it.
All of these migratory people—hymnals
in hand—who only know the chorus
& want to hear it again & again.
to the stellar back
every night between
May & September.
in various poses
& frogs stretched
like hungry Xs
close to the pond’s
edge. But not close
enough: there’s a bridge
with caution cones
& a newly paved street
in between. & the pond—
twinkling as far
as the frog eye
can see—is really
a concrete bowl
full of rain water
in the middle of a future
Domestication only goes as far as the last full
paycheck takes it in these new developments
& barking is an uncertain alarm when there are almost
six houses & one plugged-in streetlamp out here.
Footsteps, Heartbeats, Laughter
One high top after
the other, the floor
creaks like a concave chest.
One big, white shoe
in front of the other while
the music pushes
the sphere’s roof up
to its taller, more
celestial & cogent self.
One after the other
above the crack ups & giggles
of parent parties
& a refrigerator huffing, so full
of fresh produce & red meat
the whole, lit sky
sounds like a heart in love—
pressed into wax,
ready for the next question.
Fire & Speech
A lit match into the abandoned
house above the creek & the whole
sky gets as bright as a dashiki
out in the suburbs. All these colors
scaffolding bricks & the neat perihelions
of power fists in the air, for this
planet or the next. So many millions
of miles from the angry human sounds,
as heavy & magnificent as gravity
pulling on the walled shadow of a man
in a sideways Pacers cap. He’s unarmed.
Listen to all of the gestures that mean
discontent wherever they are said.
Listen as leather Africa medallions tangle
like big noises in a suburban ear.
The First Tools
Headphone to ear, a Radio Shack four-track.
Two borrowed turntables & a duct-taped
microphone: all of this ad-lib circuitry just
waiting for the break beat to open like clouds
over an undiscovered planet. Neither of us
rapped with bass in the voice yet, so DJ Glove
put Richard Pryor’s bicentennial questions over
a Mantronix beat to fill in: We offer this prayer.
& the prayer is: How long will this bullshit
go on? How long?…That is the eternal question!
Man has always asked, How long? Meanwhile,
the crowd that should have been head nodding
shepherds-hooked us off stage in angry brains.
Vernacular of questions
& hooks. Long & short
breaths instead of numbers
or letters. Orbits of digits
in the funky mind
of the wallet & bills balled
up like Tuesday afternoons
in the summer. Oxidizing
the ancients. Harmony
in the mathematic possibilities
of dashes & red blinks
stacked to the stratosphere.
Train, Truck, Tractor, Bus
The morning sky is stacked flatly on top of us, like vinyl
waiting its spin on the wheel. The bus stop still smells
like whoever peed in it, even in the upward-looking suburb,
where a tractor keeps ambitious corn in line on the backline
of the polished subdivisions & bulldozers declassify soil
& stubborn tree stumps. Trucks come & go payloaded
with couches & vacation photos & dishes in Bubble Wrap.
The observant, locomotive suburb where the conductor tugs
his train horn, waves back to the children stuck at the crossing
with soggy ice-cream cones & mostly attentive parents.
Mother & Child
The mothership is mostly
foil with four lights
unevenly blinking up
top like streetlights about
to go out. The mothership
has sixteen exhaust nozzles
underneath & a funky
side door with its own
cascading stair of keyboard
keys underneath ringed
fingers as it huffs & coughs
on the swing down to let
us ride. A chorus of drums,
undeniably on the one.
A chorus of harmonizing
women, gorgeous as comets,
& rows & rows of high-
stepping, glittery stacks
just waiting to step off
the ship. & the ship
is the only way any of us
down-&-out blacks are
going to ease on down
those future & celestial
roads. Remind both
mother & child: the whole
scene pinwheels around
us while we are stuck
in our tin-foiled
& ontological patterns.
If EEG patterns
can show fluctuations
of thought, then
thumb & finger
patterns on the piano
can show changes
of heart—from huddling
in the bare kitchen
waiting for Friday
to cooking up deep pots
with real meat & onions.
locks on doors before
posting the chair up,
to roboting in windows
with pristine curtains up
& a field full
of corn on the other
side of the fence & a service
of stars up above.
We could take
all of it & nobody
would notice other
than the crickets.
A horn tapped politely
in the distance
& the mothership hum
waiting to flashlight
contraption sketching out
this whole heartfelt
thing for everyone to see.
Everyone, pick up that skipping record needle
for future times & future beings. It’s elocution,
only with more nomenclature static. We all
need to put on big sunglasses & cover our ears.
It’s a loud, phonetic sound. Neuron on neuron
sound. It’s hyperventilating in the stuck groove
again—word pause word pause static. We all
need to put on our sunglasses to cover our good
times from these loud habits. We need extra magnetism
to cover the hurtful ringing in our earringed ears.
This poem can be found in Adrian’s new collection, Map to the Stars. For more information and to preorder, visit adrianmatejka.com