Winter/Spring 2002

On the Eve of the Hearing

by Pattiann Rogers

The ear, being boneless and almost always
exposed, except in icy, windy weather,
possesses a rather charming vulnerability,
an innocent faith in the purpose of its presence.
Never changing its strange expression,
it waits patiently, a pure waiting in the flesh,
to apprehend all sounds coming its way,
the creaks and whines, the bangs and chirps
of the universe roiling and bubbling.

The lobe of the ear is especially exquisite,
soft as a bud of rosebay, even softer,
being warm as well and smooth
as a moonstone. I once knew a woman
whose cat sucked the lobe of her ear
like a nipple, purring and humming
in a trance of nuzzling.
Lovers often seek the earlobe this way too.
And all those curves and crevices
and hidden places of the ear are tempting
to the exploring tongue of a lover probing
and searching as if believing there were god-
inspired secrets, visions to be discovered
in the darkness of those bewildering ways.
Each ear is unique in its rare geography,
its particular hollows and furrows different
from any other, the rim rounded like an aspiring
hillock. The lover’s tongue can always
recognize the ear it possesses, the delved
and canyoned land it has traveled.

There is a certain tuck in the outer ear,
a small fold, the vestige of a remote ancestor,
an ancient ancestor perhaps fanged
and clawed, nomadic and hard, an ancestor
who might sever our spines, puncture
our hearts, were we to meet each other today.
Put your finger on that fold. Touch
that old, old vanished kin, the dim
and perished who bore, the living ghost
you own but may never remember.4.
There was a warrior made a necklace
of the ears of his victims and wore it
daily with honor. Peter took his sword
and struck off the right ear of Malchus
in the Garden of Gethsemane. Researchers
recently grew a human ear on the back
of a mouse. Some babies have been born
with ears closed tight like fists, the flesh
curled into itself, as if the sounds
of the universe were too horrid to bear.
Elegant or protruding, loved or not,
the ear can be a comical feature. Clowns
wearing large rubber ears always
get laughs. The ear has its own stories,
its own myths. Listen.

Pattiann Rogers’ poems have won numerous awards, including four Pushcart Prizes, the Tietjens Prize, the Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, and the Strousse Award twice from Prairie Schooner.

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