Hearing

by NATHANIEL PERRY

All night I hear myself coughing through the night. In the morning, the morning light makes no sound or a sound so small I can’t hear it over small changes in my wife’s own breathing. The change of season surprised us again, new leaves again, a shock of crimson shocking the peony back to life. It’s a wonder, one of us said of this life, you can’t hear them growing, the trees growing I mean. But you can feel the mean things in your lungs all night for sure, all the way to where you think your breathing is their breathing, the muted rasp of spring—beautiful springing from the lungs of songbirds or the lungfuls of breath a newborn takes at night, but hard to take when it’s you, up, in the weird undarkening dark before dawn breathing and listening to your breathing. We go on and on about our breath; we breathe and listen and breathe and don’t listen and never hear what we want to hear —the light we’re sure is there, just as sure as the morning birds are there in the morning behind the window, behind the riot of rising light, which makes me squint and makes my wife begin to wake, the birds who wake so early just to have their say and say it twice: that what I can’t make out outside is made for them to hear and made for them to make for me, remade, and I’m to pass it on, this light, in the rasp of a lighter song.

NATHANIEL PERRY’s poems and translations have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, West Branch, Cincinnati Review, Salamander and elsewhere. The editor of lyric and The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, he is Assistant Professor of English at Hampden-Sydney College in rural southside Virginia.