Port and CLOSED hold an exclusive reading with Ted Hughes award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus
Thanks to everyone who came to our intimate Q&A with Raymond, who read from his debut collection, The Perseverance, while discussing what it is to be deaf, when language breaks down and stories of hope from around the world. We were lucky enough to hear his poem Echo in person, reprinted below.
My ear amps whistle like they are singing
to Echo, goddess of noise,
the raveled knot of tongues,
of blaring birds, consonant crumbs
of dull doorbells, sounds swamped
in my misty hearing aid tubes.
Gaudí believed in holy sound
and built a cathedral to contain it,
pulling hearing men from their knees
as though atheism is a kind of deafness.
Who would turn down God?
Even though I have not heard
the golden decibels of angels,
I have been living in a noiseless
palace where the doorbell is pulsating
light and I am able to answer.
a word that keeps looking
in mirrors like it is in love
with its own volume.
I am a one-word question,
would we speak
a world where
I hear everything?
How will my brain
know what to hold
if it has too many arms?
The day I clear out my dead father’s flat,
I throw away boxes of molding LPs, Garvey,
Malcolm X, Mandela, speeches on vinyl.
I find a TDK cassette tape on the shelf,
smudged green label Raymond Speaking.
I play the tape in his vintage cassette player
and hear my two-year-old voice chanting my name Antrob
and dad’s laughter crackling in the background
not knowing I couldn’t hear the word “bus”
and wouldn’t until I got my hearing aids.
Now I sit here listening to the space of deafness —
Antrob Antrob Antrob
And no one knew what I was missing
until a doctor gave me a handful of Legos
and said to put a brick on the table
every time I heard a sound.
After the test I still held enough bricks
in my hand to build a house
and call it my sanctuary,
call it the reason I sat in saintly silence
during my grandfather’s sermons when he preached
the good news, I only heard
as Babylon’s babbling echoes.
And if you don’t catch nothing
then something wrong with your ears —
they been tuned to de wrong frequency
— Kei Miller
So maybe I belong to the universe
underwater, where all songs
are smeared wailings for Salacia,
goddess of saltwater, healer
of infected ears, which is what the doctor
thought I had, since deafness
did not run in the family
but came from nowhere,
so they syringed in olive oil
and saltwater, and we all waited
to see what would come out.