Tinnitus by David R. Slavitt



It is there all the time.


It may be, but when I’m asleep, I can’t hear it.  So it is only there if I am conscious.  It is, then, the sound of being conscious. 


A high hiss, the kind of noise a steam radiator used to make.  It is the sound my brain perceives, and the brain believes in itself--as how can it not?  It is the sound of my brain.


A steam operated brain?  Why not?  But it could as easily be a sound that the body makes--of blood passing through the tiny vessels. It is not unlike the sound of water running constantly in the next room.


There is a pulse to it, which is my pulse in the artery near the eardrum.  No change in pitch but, if I pay careful attention, I can perceive a periodic increase in volume, which is annoying or soothing, depending on my mood.  One should be grateful to have his heart working and the blood flowing, after all.


There are cures but they are experimental and involve, some of them, shock therapy.   Life is shock therapy enough.  Better than such drastic measures, I could simply persuade myself that this is a good thing.   After a while, the tinnitus can seem to be the noise that time makes.  There is no time except the interval between events, which requires consciousness to notice.


So this development is both a closing down and an opening up. Both an impoverishment

        and an enrichment. It comes with age, as debility does.  And as wisdom does—or at

        least the wisdom to understand a simple sentence: I set before you this day a

        blessing and a curse.

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David R. Slavitt



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