rhythm

da da dum

The air’s breathless, the space…motionless. Sun, pavement, and distant drums. Full-voiced percussion, like a jacked up truck, radio blasting. It’s a summer parade and the pressing crowd around me surrounds me. Would it look silly if I turn and run?

The drums. Yes…the drums. That joke about clowns? Okay, we get it. But who’s freaked out by drums?

They advance now…the drums…and the resonance closes in. Uneasiness ricochets about the hollow of my chest. Anomalous somatic energy, and a spastic, weirdly thready, response. Distressing spectrotemporal interdiction, riveting normal precious regulated cardiac rhythms.

Dissonance. Internal physical dissonance.

The sun’s beating down, and the drums…they’ve only arrived. It’s not déjà vu. But it’s happened before.

No one else feels that? Apparently not.

A discernable commanding hum echoes discomfort within me. A tug of war. A battle of nerves. A competition as old as humans…fight and flight or rest and digest. Or just some acoustic oddity, in which the encompassing rhythms of those pounding drums drown out the life-sustaining silent pulse of my seemingly absent heartbeat. I’m standing. The system must be working, right? It’s a minute, scarcely a minute. Can’t I stand and breathe, hold fast and breathe, one short minute, or can’t I hold my breath, and wait, patient, wait for them to pass?

The sun’s beating down, the clamor of flashy color surrounds me, and columns of noise and noise and noise approach, now, right in front of me.

The distressing crescendo. The tipping point. And then.

Then, the dazzling procession moves along, and a restorative transition falls into place, as it should, in a quiet, effortless, intuitive pattern.

Like the waning end of a thundering storm, the metrics of summer, a day in the sun, and the vanishing hum of distant drums.

Da da dum da dum da dum. Da da dum.

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This is an odd piece I drafted a few years ago. I pull it out from time to time and play at it. It sounds fictional, but it describes a physical reaction I’ve experienced, yes, to drums.

2022

patterns


The pasty smell of drywall and paint…tell-tale leftovers from the morning’s work.

Sheer curtains scarcely move at the open window, not enough to call it a flutter. And the afternoon sun floats columns of dark and light about the architecture of the panes and the surface of a half-drawn shade. Plaids, squares, rectangles.

The air works a gentle song from the chimes outside. A soft musical chant. I hear children down the street, and a distant car engine. Repetitious drumming, the tap, tap, tap, of a small animal.

There’s covid and war and the contradiction of what should feel normal in spring. Reactions feel confused and hollow. Optimistic/pessimistic/oppressive. Unworthy of a sunny beginning-of-spring afternoon.

winter

winds

High pressure meets low pressure, and we get loud howling winds. Fast-moving currents…not the ones that move miles aloft in the jet stream…I don’t think we’d hear those…but the noisy whistling winds that whip through our old favorite branches in the backyard.

Winter’s best sounds. One is just a whisper…the soft hiss of icy crystals falling on us from a dark, starless, snowy sky.

The other is a roar.

This is about the roar. A cold, noisy, winter night, and the roar. The howling winds that bend branches to the point of breaking. Those winds.

Me?

I’m inside.

I’m enclosed and surrounded by architecture, and busy with life. With heat, with electricity. There’s this and there’s that, and I’m hunkered down, as if I can ignore what’s going on out there, a hundred feet, two hundred feet above the rooftops. Still, there’s the hum that finds its way past the insulation of walls and windows, past the white noise of every appliance, inside, that cycles off and on.

It’s hardly exceptional. Barely a simple blink or nod, on an evening in the middle of winter.

But it’s not simple. It’s unexpectedly comforting.

Compelling?

It’s as if there’s something I’m missing this winter. The noise of the wind comes like a note to self, a reminder, of the icy cold that comes at the darkest, coldest, emptiest part of an eye-watering cold winter night…when my hands, my gloves, clutch a scarf and the top of my coat up close to my neck, and up over my mouth. It’s almost instinctual. We move to hold onto that little bit of warmth released every time we exhale. But the chill of the howling wind is shrill, strong, and indifferent. Try as I might, it takes my breath away.

That’s comforting? Yes, it is.