I was the sound of America. I was the din of Americans. That fury, that tumult, that patriotic insanity. The dinner plates lay facedown, covered in dust; so long ago my grandmother’s generation. We were always divided, you and I. We pretended to play nice because nice kept the prairie clean of bodies. Today there’s no prairie and no bodies. Our minds have shrunk to the size of rabbit shit. We are ideas and border lines; we’ve lost our feel for dirt. Go fight for the scraps, they order (we believe). We are rabid. I long for the messy path but find suburbs and modular homes. I seek the silence and glittering morning skies of a forested mountaintop untamed and true. I gather my belongings and look for a fire in which to toss them. I am spent. I am riddled with the holes of America, the gunshots never again romantic as the cannons on the pirate seas; they are dull and homogenized. I am muffled cries of anguish and the slap of an open hand against another’s cheek. I am a terrified America. I am weeping alone, if I weep at all. I have no more time for grief. I am the sound.
These are all texts that begin with the phrase “I was the sound.” I wrote using this prompt for 50 consecutive days.
I was the sound of softest breath across the pillow upon which she slept. I was the halted gasp that meant she dreamed with twitching feet and blinking eyes. I was the moan, soft cry and smack of tear against the cloth as her father died and she knew not she was sleeping still.
“I” was the sound the Self made when it was uninterested with Nothingness. “I” was the first note of the Infinite Symphony, played after Nothing became Something and Something Else. “I” was You and Me and Everything.
I was, the sound proved my existence. What would reverberate if not my fleshy pads called ear drums; this proves my physical existence. What would process the code sent shivering into my brain, and the awareness of the tingles; this proves my mental being. Without me the sound would not be sound. But there is sound, so I must be.
I was the sound you forgot, or do you remember? You were sitting in your grandmother’s garden on a summer day, picking wild strawberries. The soil was cold and moist and riddled with worm holes. The sky was blue and high and bloomed with clouds. At quarter past 2 you pulled a strawberry from its home and were startled by the sudden crash of a singular sound, a type of sound which you had never heard before and would never hear again. One could not describe this sound, for description relies on relative comparisons, and you have never heard a sound anything like it. Perhaps the best I might do is say, it sounded like the color turquoise was split by the smell of black pepper. It was a genius, spicy note. And though you have never known it, it changed your life completely.
I was the sound of the gods beating upon your window in the windy night. The shadows out there shift and topple, head over heels, like giants doing cartwheels. Footsteps, you swear, there are footsteps coming down the hall; the memory of some black shape at the edge of sleep, stalking you. The door is touched by an unseen hand, begins to open, and terror is that thing lodged and crisp and cutting in your throat. What do you see, dear, but the unknown and all you cannot control. It grasps at you.
I was the sound of her hoop, the plastic ring, the rattle and ping. I was the kick of the can, the scrape of the shoe, the knee scraped and tan. I was the call come from home; dinner at six, evening sun, screen door summers, and now it’s too late.
I was the sound of the mountain. I was the noise of the sky. I was the voice of the children. And the water’s sigh. I was the creep of the vine. I was the kink in the twig. I was the pat from mother. And dad’s long swig. I was all that you were. I was all you’ll never be. Listen to that mountain. Don’t forget that is thee.
I was the soundless sister, which is to say, I thought little of myself in comparison to my oldest sister. When confronted by her presence in a small room crowded by other family members, they listened to her and laughter came easy. I slid around the corners, taking dishes to the dining table or helping mother chop celery for her stew. I was nothing more than a dropped dish cloth on the linoleum, a stray parsley leaf on the countertop; and I was okay with this arrangement. Mostly.
I was the sound of your dreams. You heard me first in your childhood, in the color green in the summer, when every morning the sun startled you awake. You next heard me in the spring some years later, when home was left behind and you looked ahead toward unknowns larger than any you’d previously faced; and yet you took comfort in my promises. When next was I your dreams a voice in your ear? I was there on several occasion, but you rarely heard me. I became muffled by false dreams and false projections and false paths you tread. I became nothing but a memory, something sentimental heard long ago and possibly imagined. Forgive those who forgets me, for perhaps there is no greater pain than to hear me and know I am no closer than when a toddler. Forgive them, for regret and failure are ferocious ideas not easily shaken. Keep hope, for I come sometimes to the most deaf in the nick of time, and my sound can be like dynamite beneath the sleeping.