Headphones: A Brief History and Other Notes

by Danielle Verwers

I.
Baldwin sold the set he built
there on the kitchen table
to the Navy.

Today most civilians own
headphones to cancel
the cacophony.

How fortunate freedom
affords us this right.
We shut our eyes,

hum along to stale sound
play it again, repeat.

II.
After the quick blast no one
imagined a super power
would lose too—

soldiers numbered in proxy wars,
hot spots the hard way,
long and slow,

nightmares tunneled in jungles.

III.
The Atomic Fireball candy
invented back in 1954
is a crimson orb,

sugar with a lingering
sting. Some hunger
defies reason.

The burn is an acquired
taste, that craving
for cayenne hurt.

In ancient Egypt, cinnamon
filled dead deities to don
the illusion of life.

Maybe those cold, war
children believed
the heat might

preserve their life just
in case they forgot
to drop and cover

or bomb sirens failed to sound.

IV.
Every voice is a vibration,
a spoken movement.
So are songs.

In time, the sum of anthems,
ancient chants, the hymns
will crescendo, summon

a sonic boom in the yellow sky.
Chains will rattle, some
will snap in half

and the moans of broken mothers
who lament their lost boys.
Sound will bend metal,

hold off atomic winter,
if only for today.

 

 

Danielle Verwers writes and teaches in Columbia, South Carolina. Her work has appeared in Eastern Iowa Review, Petigru Review, and elsewhere. She won the Washington Award in 2020, the Patricia & Emmett Robinson Prize in 2021, and was named a finalist for the McCray Nickens Fellowship in 2021.

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