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Norma Chapman



FILLING THE SILENCE

Charlie Parker tongues his sax,
and my ear is tuned to the melody his notes
play against, ripening in small absences of sound.

At a concert, I hear Eliott Carter's quartet of long silences
between bursts of music. It turns the audience
into hundreds of string quartets.

I'm at a party. My friend wears the stigmata
of abuse. No one speaks. The air sits awkward
in my throat. Unspoken words gather and darken.

They fill the empty spaces and carry me
out the door as I put on my coat. They make
their place in my car, and they ride me home.

In the silences between these words,
make your own poem.


TINNITUS    

        Sensation of ringing or roaring in the ears.

The Brunswick High School band played indoors.
The boy next door who beat the drums had moved.
I couldn't hear my neighbors'music: no Bob Marley

from next door, no Waylon Jennings or Joe Cocker
from the houses across the street. I noticed,
on that day, my computer's hum. Another sound

emerged, like far-off  cicadas or tiny violins
or high sopranos exercising their voices
several blocks down the street. I thought of Toby Lester,

who had mapped the sounds in his house: refrigerator,
air conditioner, computer. His prevailing key, B flat.
My tinnitus harmonized with my computer: the interval, a fifth.

The refrigerator joined to form the bass, and my heartbeat
served as ground for this new and inescapable song.


IN THE L&H CAFE

She fills the creamers and thinks of Forrest Westbrook
from school, his straight teeth and black hair.
He's a senior and almost too old for her.  He plays the piano
like crazy.  She's studied his fingers, acrobats on the keys.

The blond truck driver sits on the same stool he chose
yesterday and the day before and plays the same song
on the jukebox, You are too beautiful for one man alone.
He stares at her. When she glances back, he blushes.

Mr. King, the cook, shouts at her from the kitchen. She quick
steps to pick up the plates, places three on her long arm
and carries them to a table. They're for the family that doesn't
believe in tipping. They tell her so again. She doesn't answer.

She wants to hear Peggy Lee, He'll leave you to sing the blues
in the night.
The trucker plays his favorite again. She doesn't look.







Norma Chapman
Norma Chapman lives in Brunswick, a small town in Western Maryland.  She started writing poetry after turning sixty, somewhat to her surprise.  Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from River Styx, Passager, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Iris, and The Sow's Ear.  She received a 2003 Maryland State Arts Council Grant.




                                    

 

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