The internal ear is the essential part of the organ of
hearing, receiving the ultimate distribution of the
auditory nerve. It is called the labyrinth, from the
complexity of its shape…
— Gray’s Anatomy
In a glass box,
hearing’s pivot and swivel,
a case of
labyrinths. Row upon row
of slight, white depths
throb and hum.
In the first row
: a silver spoon stirring sugar
into the ear’s cup,
spoon of conduction,
coiled and eager, prenatal divining
rod quivering with dark, underwater
bloodbeats, muffled uterine voice start of loud out
to fluorescent thrum, the warming table, carol
over an aching fontanel.
Second row the labyrinths grow and recede
: orangutan, flying dog from Madagascar,
pale implements, still holding in their hoop
the rustle of rain in grass, the sand
along the plummeting third
: spanned gymnura, trichechus,
the chiming sea, its peal, bell of itself and deeper
to the prehistoric bear, hyena, echo into the cave.
Fifth and sixth row
: rodents, curled like hibernation itself, tail spiral,
scratch, skitter, trill, and coil, writhe of a pink fingerling
pianissimo against the large pachydermal sweep, ivorial and tusking,
seventh row, the hoof of the eighth.
The last labyrinths
: shift to bird, light, light, the case can’t hold them. They hover
on the tips of the velvet lining, a golden string,
the very origin of inquiry.