The Hum


There is not yet a single word, but the poem can already be heard …

– Osip Mandelstam

It takes all night to turn the page –
no offense to the poem – its image
sets up so bright a mirror
the room moves towards it, vaster

for all the darkness I’m left sitting in.
By mid-morning you were fathoming
how to decant me from one vessel to another,
his to yours, replace the stopper

and drink. But what you drank was laced
with a distance, like moonlight traced
back to the moon at her most explicit,
so much so you have to listen for it

close to my mouth. Then, in that way you have
when you persist, like a siderostat,
in fixing me in your view,
what I’ve kept hidden becomes visible to you.

And that’s when the hum begins, suffusing the room
in the same way the face, when it communes
with the cup, disappears into it –
a moment in which we are only our lips.

from Sidereal (Picador, 2011), © Rachael Boast 2011, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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