Before the Sound Began to Vanish by torrin a. greathouse

I gathered shirtfuls of shells,

pleated circle skirts of red

plastic & copper, spent casings,

the way some children gather corpses
tumbled in by the sea. Bedside dressed
in teflon & lead. I spent my nights,
ears pressed to cold metal, searching
for water & heard only the soft
hush of flames. Once, my grandfather
fired a shotgun over my shoulder

to finish off a downed & limping quail.
I can still hear it now. Call it a hum
in the drum, the gunpowder still
burning. Now, as the subway rattles
the music out of our bones, I turn
a friend’s face for them to kiss
the soft shapes of language

into the air. Hear their movement,

the flutter of wings in periphery.
Sometimes, my own voice is so loud

that when I speak, I hear nothing

for minutes after. The sound bright

as muzzle flash. Every breath, a match
sharpened from wood to flame.
Silence—not the opposite of sound

but the wind stripped sordid in its wake.
One spring, I sheltered through

a downpour beneath a dying tree,

its boughs burdened by uncountable birds.
Together, they sang so loudly that their call
& the rain became one note. The sound
heard from inside of a struck bell

or the barrel of a gun.
torrin a. greathouse is a transgender cripple-punk & MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of boy/girl/ghost (TAR Chapbook Series, 2018) & assistant editor of The Shallow Ends. Their work is published/forthcoming in POETRY, The New York Times, & The Kenyon Review. She is the youngest ever winner of the Poetry Foundation’s J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize.