by Adrian Matejka
Sounds of Earth
In 1976, Voyager’s Golden Records were lathing up & some
egghead forgot Roland Kirk’s “Spirits Up Above”
between Bach, the crickets chirping, & the Pygmy girls’ initiation
song. The same way somebody forgot to warn the boy walking
his 10-speed along that Indiana road about the hooptie that almost
ran him down as the driver leaned to the passenger side to yell
nigger. The sounds of Earth: dragging tailpipes, gravel
scratching pavement like the g-force subjugating the middle
of a hateful word. A blind man playing 3 horns at the same
time, then dying from too much circular breathing in an Indiana town
20 minutes away from the original Klan headquarters. After that,
evening’s easy spiral sent the boy trucking inside before dark.
No more constellations connecting the dots. No more crickets
or country headlights like stars shadowboxing their orbits.
The same sounds etched in copper & plated in gold for the long ride
out brought the boy to his bike & the racist to his Datsun: a universe
spinning so aggressively, we lose parts of our dignity between noises.
Coltrane & the bell of his sax, the belle of the ball & her long line
of suitors wrapping the dancehall’s marble entrance
like a feathered boa dropped during the mad dash to midnight.
The dashes between those numbers look like wrong-shaped
letters in the flat light. Mathematicis mathematica
scribunter since we look alike with plus signs for hands
& minuses where our eyes should be. That late night on the Mercer
Island Expressway when the Jetta spun out in the misting & flipped
right in front of us, its tires spun in the air like a dog pawing
for a belly rub. There was gas dripping & visions of explosions
while we tried to get the driver out. The whole time,
“Countdown” riffed from the one speaker that still worked:
past trim mountains, the Pacific sounding somewhere
behind us, a Cadillac 8-tracking slick fabulousness past us without
stopping to help. On a raining highway in the middle of the night,
eyes can’t tell math from honey & every number equals
Coltrane counting it down from an upside-down car.
Adrian Matejka is the author of The Devil’s Garden (Alice James Books, 2003), Mixology (Penguin USA, 2009), and The Big Smoke(Penguin USA), forthcoming in 2013. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Ploughshares, and Poetry among other journals and anthologies. You can find him atwww.adrianmatejka.com or on Twitter: @adrian_matejka.