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Thomas Cook

Other Voices

Dam in the Mountains by Azam Atakhanov

My head was a snarl of said things; or as the poet said, “I heard a thousand blended notes.” I did hear the voice of my supervisor, which was not the voice of a company man nor the voice of a human. He had been away, in a sad and impoverished city in the United States. We are still in the United States, but in a commonwealth that is not (overall) as sad or impoverished. I heard also the voice of man who is not working out; he may not be able to do the job. Where will he go? Is there a river nearby that he will kneel on the banks of and cry into after he is dismissed?

I heard the voice of a person with a simple task, the voice of another person with many important tasks. Each of them ate a lunch warmed by our department’s microwave, which is the offspring of a weapon, which most people today know but which most people tomorrow may not know. Who is to say what will happen? Some days I feel wild and some days I feel cuddling up with a snack and enjoying my bare feet. There were other voices (my mother coming to visit, the radio personality who hosts the program Performance Today, my own voice, growing hoarse as the day’s conversations wore on), but none of the voices were so distinct, but all of the voices were so distinct; it’s difficult to know what I should say when I can’t hear myself anymore.

This is not to say that I am tired (though I am) or that I am fed up (with what?), but this is to say that one thinks about the sound of voices, their cumulative effect (culmination?) over time, as they pass through one man’s head. The poet who counts to one thousand? The poet who can hear “blended” rather than mess? That is a man who is not between things. He is a leviathan. He is of cities. He walks up the river and brings water to his mouth. His emotions are calibrated to the secret tact only he knows. He is not a genius or a technology of war. He is distinct. Who is to say?


About the writer:
Thomas Cook’s essays, fiction, and poetry have appeared recently in Quarterly West, Rappahannock Review, The Chattahoochee Review, The Cincinnati Review, and Bennington Review. He lives in Los Angeles.

Image: Dam in the Mountains by Azam Atakhanov (contemporary). Oil on canvas. 120×190 cm. 2010. By permission.

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