Monday, August 03, 2009

Uproar At The Edge Of Town

     It changes endlessly, and that is the truth; sometimes it glistens in the rain or almost rings under the sun; sometimes there is frost or fog or snow and sometimes there are the most strange and beautiful clouds overhead that it is almost unbelievable; but all in all they are still the same roofs and chimneys (and the occasional chimney sweep) with the same windows, with servants (sometimes different ones) shaking dustcloths out the windows, and the same yards and the neighbors’ children—in short, these are just the sort of things you can see out of any window. It is probably the same for you.

     And in addition to these daily sights there is another view, an auditory one, if I might put it that way. The same sounds come in the window every day; you scarcely note them as they happen, but you know that if they did not come at their appointed time that you would notice something lacking and begin to listen intently. This is why Sundays and holidays are somehow oppressive, because that daily aural backdrop is different; suppressed and thinned out. The world is not so full or so real on those days. How could you not recognize the sounds of your part of town? I know them so well I know nothing of them as they happen. Hammer away, carpenters, shaping the timbers of a new row of houses, you are no bother; rattle on, coal carts, roar and shout, heavy motors straining up hill; and you, airplane, droning overhead—it does not touch me. What sort of new and unaccustomed sound would there have to be to summon me to the window? The bugle and bass of country musicians would do that; I’d jump up and go look and the old man blowing into his horn. Or the sounds of cows and heifers and the high-pitched calves, that beautiful, husky, the thirds and fifths of the mountain pastures. Or a song for seven singers. In any of those events I would leap up from my work and tear over to the window to see where—where—

     Suddenly I hear a boom. It is ten-twenty in the morning. So what does that boom imply? Maybe the soldiers are drilling down in the fields; perhaps it is a mortar or a detonation, as they call it, but the soldiers nearby have already finished drilling and are headed home singing, “oh, you will regret, you will regret this, my love.” Well, it could be the trams clanking, or the boards pounding over at the construction site; perhaps they have torn down some scaffolding. A number of loud noises have already fallen into this beloved daily din at the edge of town. Whooo, whooo, wheezes the powerful locomotive; and hear the iron squeal on the bumpers. And that freight truck tries to brake as it hurtles noisily downhill. “Hey, hey,” the coachmen might shout, “why did they load on so much?” And I know that other sound, that is the children whistling as they go to school. The barking of a puppy. The clanking of a steamroller. The sonorous clacking of bricklayers laying. I don’t have to get up from my work; repetition has already brought these sounds here into my space, and so much the better, for they are so extensive and vibrant.

     At ten-twenty there was a gas explosion in an apartment a few blocks away. It was a proper boom, but before I could evaluate it, is disappeared into this living, bustling, crashing polyphony at the edge of town as though it belonged there, as if it had already been written down beforehand in the sheet music.

Boom. One strike of the drum to keep the beat.



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