Grace Curtis is the author of three collections of poetry, Everything Gets Old, (Dos Madres, 2019) The Shape of a Box, (Dos Madres, 2014), and The Surly Bonds of Earth (Lettre Savage, 2010).
Her prose and poetry can be found in numerous journals. http://www.gracecurtispoetry.com
The Color of Sound
The sound inside a seashell or in the cup of a palm held to the ear, is not really the ocean, but rather all the surrounding sounds gathered into a small chamber: resonance. Less beach than trucks on a distant highway, less sunshine and sand than laundry and heat. Remember the time you heard a woman laugh as she watched a car on fire in a grocery store parking lot? Nerves, she said to no one. Sometimes all we can know of each other is what we already know of ourselves.
Ambient noise is not a collection of existing sounds but rather a filtering out of the intentional: what remains after all the guests have left. To mentally relive a conversation, is to throw a pebble into a pool of white noise, and to, for a moment, watch the ripple it creates on an inner surface.
The Venus Flytrap easily distinguishes between nutritional prey and mere happenstance—two trigger-hairs must be touched in succession, or one hair touched twice before it snaps shut. Few people know that Ernest Hemingway lost a whole suitcase-full of unpublished manuscripts. To Ezra Pound, he wrote, I suppose you heard about the loss of my Juvenalia? Sometimes, what we most want to hear eludes us.
A hiccup is a private conversation, occasionally overheard by others—silence playing with spasmodic sound. Pink noise, on the other hand, contains sound from across the entire spectrum. With each elevation in pitch, the volume softens creating something deep and soothing. Comparable to a distant waterfall; so reminiscent of memory, it can evoke the scent of apple blossom.
Small tapers. The girl-like fingers
on a lady across the room
drawing circles on the glass-top table
at a Chinese restaurant, the table’s edge,
a fulcrum. Little birds, butterflies,
mosquitos. Tap, tap, tap
with the nails to punctuate a point.
She likes the way her newly painted nails
glisten as they skitter over the glass. She thinks
of a story to tell him that will require her
to draw on the table with her fingertips.
He’s used to it. He looks into her eyes,
then at the fingers as they draw.
Maybe the story is about a near miss.
I was coming this way off Broad Street,
says the index finger on her right hand.
(Her left hand waits quietly,
palm down.) She traces the path of her car,
the other fingers folded up into her palm.
Now with the left index finger
she shows him how another driver pulled out
in front of her coming from Main,
just missing her car. She holds
the index fingers at the intersection
for a few seconds. The couple breathes together,
looking at the map—the story’s end.
The palms go face down onto the table,
one on top of the other. A jewelry box lid
lined with felt, softly closed. An accident
was averted. For a minute, the hands rest,
motionless. Then, she lifts them and draws
a few more tight circles
on the smooth glass with all the fingers.
First in one direction, then in the other—
a little flourish. It’s about something delicate
having a voice. It’s about smooth cool glass,
the language of mercury, balled up,
rolling across the table to a listener, a glint
that catches the eye. It’s about
flames at the end of tapers.