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Time to Hear Ourselves Think

Time to Hear Ourselves Think Poem

We’ve missed that for years, not so much
The thinking itself—that goes on regardless—
But the hearing of it, small waterwheels
Turning in millponds, the press and hiss

Of steam irons in storefront laundry shops,
Gears changing, the tick in the clock
Hopping upstairs. It’s as if,
In muffled slow motion, through shock and aftershock,

We kept feeling with our hands—all thought
Outside ourselves, all concepts
Those railroad stations we were always leaving,
Elevators, the courthouse steps

Hurrying toward collapse. But now that we have
Stolen this time, I’m beginning
To hear numbers—I swear it—
Little formations of numbers gathering

Strength as their flanks swing east, and pigeons
Cooing in bank alcoves, and my own
Pencil tapping, ears popping, the spitting sound
Made when tires roll over tiny stones

And it’s almost frightening to think,
Of what was going on, how much lies there, ,
Scattered, or wounded, or dead
In ourselves that we could not hear.

Dick Allen
first published in Poetry, August 1996
also from Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected

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