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A History of the Senses

An early life of sound—a cornet
through the window, a mother calling
her son home, the backboard still singing
a missed throw. Pearl Harbor, and one brother enlisted.
Furloughed, Gene gave the thunk of a dart hitting its mark.

At the table, a second brother’s slammed fork,
then his vow—perhaps enlisting, perhaps the draft.
His sister Alice, her heels tapping on the side walk
as she led him to the library. Later the spinning
wheels of his bike, a wind song in his wake.

Weekends restoring organs, embedded in cities of pipe,
rising skyscrapers and crowded houses, the sound
thrumming against his breastbone, his body
a bellows. At school, he sang heavenly music,
three kings and their slow arrival. At home,
the murmur of the rosary, beads snicking
against each other, Hail Mary, Full of Grace.

His mother’s voice calling fortunes, fate flipping
in her fingers. She charged fifty cents; the women
brought dollars, soft and hopeful. Evenings,
his father read the Bible aloud, nestled in the soft
chair, his deep intoning of grace. Drafted, then furloughed,
on the evening of return, his brother James wept in his mother’s arms,
and the house rattled for days, his mother knocking
from room to room, a restless heart. Then Germany for John,

now a young man, crowded in a hut, perched atop a two ton tank,
Morse code pinging through his headphones, his fingers tapped
the language, twenty five words a minute, messages
he never understood, only sent forward. Then,

home at last, to Jeannie with the light
brown hair. On date nights, they danced together
in a slow foxtrot. The music, swish of skirts, the chatter
buzz, all swirl to silence. With his palm pressed
to the heat of her back, her Chanel
in the air, they hear no more sound, just feel
two bodies wanting only to hold each other.


©2017 by Camille-Yvette Welsch