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The Saturday poem: Audiology

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by Sean O’Brien

I hear an elevator sweating in New Orleans,
Water folding black on black in tanks deep under Carthage,
Unfracked oil in Lancashire
And what you’re thinking. It’s the truth –
There goes your silent count to ten, the held breath
Of forbearance, all the language not yet spoken
Or unspeakable, the dark side of the page.
But this is not about you. I can hear
The sea drawn back from Honshu,
Hookers in the holding pen, and logorrhoea
In the dreaded Quiet Coach,
The firestorm of random signs
On market indices, the bull, the bear,
The sound of one hand clapping and the failure of the rains,
The crackle of the dried-out stars,
Stars being born, anomalies and either/or,
The soundtrack of creation in an unrecorded vowel,
The latest that might be the last, the leading edge
Of all that is the case or is not there.
“The contradictions cover such a range.”
And I’m told that soon it will be easier
To balance out the love-cry and the howl,
To wear an aid and act my age, to hear the world
Behind this world and not to crave amnesia.

• FromThe Beautiful Librariansby Sean O’Brien (Picador, £9.99). To order a copy for £7.99 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.

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