Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Michael Simms: Going Deaf

Now is the time for drowsy tanagers. -– E.S.


First I lost the tick of snowflakes hitting glass.

Then the sound of the cat’s tongue running over her fur.

It used to be I could almost hear her tail moving,

The muscles of the back stretching, the yawn going to a different register…

I lost the buzz of the fly, the distant hammer of my neighbor fixing his roof,

The whine of wind in the rafters and the exact words you speak

As you walk away, rooms opening to other rooms, houses full

Of music I’ll never hear as I walk by. The tinny laughter

Of television sitcoms I don’t miss,

Nor bus-farts nor gunshots of the cops

But Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith… missing a few notes

Means losing the whole song, the way all the beads

Fall to the floor when the string breaks.


What I miss most are the sounds you wanted me to hear:

The too-weet, too-weet, of the hungry towhee,

The sisisisphree of the chickadee, the twonktwonk of the woodpecker,

The redwing hawk as it cries to its mate,

Your mother singing, and through the years her voice cracking

And shattering and coming to rest inside you.


I do see the flash of the cardinal in the branches,

Even the woodthrush almost invisible in its groundnest of leaves,

The silent song sparrow carrying yarn in its beak

The return of hundreds of crows to our mountain every evening.


For a long time, you thought I didn’t have a hearing problem,

But a listening problem. And damn it, you were right.

So many sounds I ignored when I had the chance to hear them.

Every morning a riot of song, the stars going out, one by one –

I could almost hear them.

Every day our children learning to speak,

Every afternoon leaning into ourselves.

What’s the sound of two hands clapping?


Lost are the double entendre of the bed squeaking at night,

The slant rhyme of wind in the trees,

The anapest of crickets. Basso profundo of the bullfrog.

All that remains is the bright light on the snow

And the wind moving the last leaves on the poplar.


Soon comes silence, first the small silence of the deaf,

Then the Big Silence growing from a spot of darkness

Becoming a shadow under a tree and finally night, starless and forever.

Perhaps as my hearing fades, my listening will improve,

So every sound will call us home

Like our mothers in the evening,

Every fear becomes a sound like

Echoes in the pool hall —


Perhaps I will hear Chopin as I take off your bra.

Remember when we were first married,

How we loved being lonely together,

Riding the slow train from New York to Pittsburgh,

The rhythm a sympathetic magic between us?

Back home, we lay in bed, kissing like waterfalls.


Music will become a dream,

then a memory of a dream,

Then nothing at all, just a word,

An unformed idea

Like color to a blind person

Or like the smell of hyacinths lingering

After they’ve been carried out of the room.


You, my best half, know

When I hate myself, I hate us

And you flee to the woods to be

With your birds, your snow-filled trails,

Your deep ravines and wooden bridges

Braided waterfalls, stone culverts

And the singing of the stars

As they go out one by one.


Robin, the sentinel bird, lets out a cry

And the pileated woodpecker chases the hawk away.

Oh love, let us ride the lonely train to Pittsburgh forever

Where the November symphony grows fainter every year.


Copyright 2016 Michael Simms

Michael Simms is the founder and editor of Vox Populi.


33 comments on “Michael Simms: Going Deaf

  1. Latorial Faison
    November 28, 2017

    What a great poem…and all the little wonderful things hearers take for granted. Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nancy Donnelly
    November 28, 2017

    I don’t cry. It made me cry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike
    November 27, 2017

    Beautiful writing, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rosaly
    November 27, 2017

    Michael–I am carrying around this poem–it’s delicate and strong–and speaks to us through its offering as a gift to all who received it. It’s the INTIMACY poem we recognize as yours and then it is ours too and we are deeply moved by what touched you. You listened deeply–and oh can we hear you. Bravo

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Marie Hunter Atwood
    November 28, 2016

    How do we cope, except with hope that one day we’ll both see and hear with thanksgiving for having had You near through trivial losses that reminded painfully of your own. Thank you Lord, and thanks to you Mr. Simms for an incredibly accurate poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. daniel r. cobb
    November 17, 2016

    I’m finding it difficult to not re-read this, to open this page again and explore it more fully. Michael, this is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. daniel r. cobb
    November 17, 2016

    Beautiful poem, Michael. Sad, yes, but the slow unwinding is inevitable. In the early morning, the sound I sometimes hear these days is tinnitus. It results, I suspect, from things like my cranking the old Pioneer amplifier up to hear The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in all of its glory, back in the 70s, and then 80s and…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. triciaknoll
    November 16, 2016

    Forwarded to a good friend of mine….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Philip Terman
    November 16, 2016

    Mike–This is one of the best poems I’ve read. Really fantastic. I’m going to share it to everyone I know. Truly brilliant. Thanks so much. Phil

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Peter Notehelfer
    November 16, 2016

    Very beautifully written. It is the first poem of yours I’ve read but I am sure that I’ll read more. Blessings . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Daniel Burston
    November 16, 2016

    How sad, Michael. And how beautifully expressed.

    Take care,

    Dan >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      November 16, 2016

      Thanks, Dan. I’ve noticed progressives attacking each other over the last week. In my neighborhood coffee shop yesterday, I witnessed — and tried to referee — a fierce argument between two women, close friends and co-workers, one black and one white, arguing about white privilege. The problem is that they both voted for Hillary after supporting Sanders. So many people are in agony over the events of the last week. How can we fight our enemies if we can’t forgive our friends? Take care. M.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Gospel Isosceles
    November 16, 2016

    Intimate, bordering the sacred. When you talk about the music becoming a dream, then a memory of a dream, then nothing but an empty word is as sad as a dying star. If we lose the essence of something, how can we ever expect to communicate–to love–as deeply as we’re meant to?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Jane Adair
    November 16, 2016

    This is poignantly sad and beautiful at once. Thanks Michael for the gorgeous poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Kelly Seibel
    November 16, 2016

    Your poem was so beautiful. I’m sorry that your hearing is fading, but you have brought back to me so many things we forget to listen for in our busy lives.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Beth
    November 16, 2016

    Wonderful poem! An upside to my own gradual loss of hearing is that the scrub jays don’t wake me too early on summer mornings with their loud, raspy cries.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Lois Losyk
    November 16, 2016

    Oh Michael, you did what a good poet does. You put me in your world and made me feel empathy. If this is about you, I am so sorry. You made me know what it is like. My hearing isn’t so sharp anymore, but I hope not to lose it entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      November 16, 2016

      Thanks, Lois. And yes, the poem is about my own loss of hearing.


  17. MELewis
    November 16, 2016

    Oh my. This is beautiful. I have half my hearing, and treasure it all the more after reading this.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. anisioluiz2008
    November 16, 2016

    Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2016 by in Environmentalism, Health and Nutrition, Note from the Editor, Poetry and tagged , .

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