Tinnitus

By St Germain, Sheryl | Women's Studies Quarterly, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Tinnitus


St Germain, Sheryl, Women's Studies Quarterly


Don't listen, the doctor says

when I tell him about the sounds

I'm hearing in my newly deaf ear.

They aren't real sounds, because

I won't hear those again. The inner ear,

those thumbnail-sized canals

we call the cochlea and labyrinth, is partly destroyed,

and no sounds from the outside will ever

make their way as waves through

the sweet fluids of those bone-encased

sexy curves of tissue again.

No sounds from the outside will ever

wash like tides into my heart-no beloved

ever whisper or lie in that ear again

Don't listen, don't think about it, the doctor says

when I tell him about the sounds the deaf ear appears

to be generating in its refusal to hear

outside itself. Such intimate sounds

I wonder that I never heard them before,

wonder if they were always there, like the voice

of one you've loved so deep they've become

part of your very cells-but you don't notice

until they're gone. Pulsing, rushing sounds,

organic sounds, someone breathing but not

me, not in tune with my breath, ocean sounds,

the sound a seashell makes when you put it

to your ear. I walk out into the strangely warm

November air, the sky as blue as an honest man's eyes,

I walk into the small prairie remnant back of my house,

and surrounded by waves of grasses all shades

of brown and blonde and red, it seems as if the sounds

in my ear might be coming from the land itself,

the language of these deep-rooted, dying grasses

the same as the language of my ear.

Don't listen, the doctor says. People

who have this can get lost in the world

of these sounds and disconnect from

the real world. Play a radio at night,

distract yourself.

But of course I don't listen

to him-I stay up nights taking notes

on what sounds I'm hearing. Of course

I listen to my newly wounded ear-I have

great respect for the wounded-they know

something about survival-and I want to hear

what my ear has to say, now that it's got my attention.

Sometimes the sounds are not organic

but mechanical-I hear microwave

ovens going off, that long beep

that announces your hot water or soup

or whatever you're heating is ready; sometimes

it's the bell sound an elevator makes

when it arrives at a floor and the door opens;

sometimes it seems like the tones in an airport

announcing a forthcoming page: tone will

Mr. …

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