Something flickers all through. Maybe it’s made
of hair like the brush blade—lay blue
across white, one band below the next.
Or metal, but insubstantial: foil too stubborn
to unroll right. Catch the edge with a finger—that
scratch, but constant. It could be plastic. Comb teeth
across the table edge. More persistent
than rain, more than blinking. A lung
with the start of pneumonia, wet tick
of air passing in past the sick spot, passing out.
And long steps like a bell—wood on metal
sung across a dozen waves, the dream of a walk
that turns into flight. We may forget
but something flickers. To listen
is like standing in a crowd, not saying
anything. Voices become wingbeats, and
everyone who can hear it—everyone whose
radio is on in the car or the kitchen or office, earbuds
blooming out threaded heartbeat—we like it
because all the time anyway we hear
a low note and a high note played
next to each other fast, alternating.
We spear both sounds through with wire
that holds us up like walkers ecstatic above traffic
and almost hidden in the day’s early fog.
Carolyn Williams-Noren was a 2014-2015 winner of a McKnight Artist Fellowship, selected by Nikky Finney. She’s the founder and caretaker of a free poetry library (littlepoetrylibrary.org) in the Minneapolis neighborhood where she lives with her family. New poems of hers will appear this fall in Water~Stone Review and Tar River Poetry, and her chapbook, Small Like a Tooth, is available from Dancing Girl Press.