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Bunzli

James Bunzli

Hearing Test

The audiologist speaks to me (a list
of spondees). I can see her face, across
double glass, in my face, reflected as
I lean to listen, repeat the words, her
steady head. “Armchair, stairway.” Until
she turns (she is in training), breaks

our oneness, the idea that we might
be alone. Trying not (the little sound-
proof room) to breathe, swallowing
between sounds, I raise one hand, the
other, hear the “very good, now–” in
my ear, the intimacy of it translating

in all languages, and none. Again
the head, vague and sharper for it, a
moment in mine. The whole is great.
During a surprisingly symmetrical tymp-
anogram, she–still in this little room–would
brush against me, but what struck me was

the hand on my shoulder, the “that loud
sound again,” and “let me know if it is
at all uncomfortable,” if it hurts me, makes
tears come (hothouse, daybreak), lets loss
linger like pressure on the eardrum, a
sudden sense of thickening time rising.

(Later, when the loss is “profound,” I will
stand, straining at rain, waiting for a hand,
closing eyes against it: swelling earth (tongue),
her behind me, again the hand, tasting falling
dust, feeling(s) like kneeling in mud wanting to be
(washed) away. Sunset, headlight, distance.)

I have heard contempt (subtler than a pin
thinking about it) and louder sounds: the door
the car. Gravel, driveway. I hear the oboe
soar in Dvorak and I rise slightly with it (by
my sleeping mother), but I suffer (as does she)
a dizziness and sudden lack of will. I can’t hear

where a sound is coming from. The testing is
not fair, does not rely on hearing any more
than perfect pitch, the woman at that distance
beating a rug, seeming to make sound at
the backswing, recognizing the end. A child
learns to look for the plane elsewhere in the sky.

It is a test of memory, one second to the next.
Schoolboy, inkwell. But also of the cat ready
to jump, the highway like an ocean, ocean
like a creed, (dis)belief. Do I remember both:
hearing the same phrases (farewell, northwest),
the (in)difference in your voice that day? I do.

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