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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 8: June 2021
Prose Poem: 265 words [R]
By Claire Bateman



Where I come from, everyone’s helpless against the aerial onslaught of other people’ mental music, those melodic fragments that run on repeat-loops through the brain.

So before we venture out on a picnic, we check the index for our chosen location, and if there hasn’t been enough wind to waft away harmonic residue, we seek an alternate spot.

Before we close on a house, we scrutinize the notarized list of songs and musical passages that have accumulated there; failure to disclose even one renders a contract void.

Dating profiles feature each person’s top ten, but there’s no guarantee that a couple’s internal playlists won’t evolve in opposite directions. Post break-up, both partners still hum their ex’s tunes, since music is sexually transmitted no matter how much protection lovers afflict themselves with.

A few people claim they can actually see the songs, that each possesses its own color configuration, some pale and translucent, with others pulsing in primary hues; these individuals maneuver vigilantly through the streets, circumnavigating the currents, but the rest of us find ourselves continually ambushed by overlapping washes, as though we’re slipping between radio stations every few seconds.

It’s certainly quieter in your country where those auditory echoes remain trapped inside the individual mind. Your atmosphere seems stale, almost dimensionless compared to that of my homeland, but your citizens are more volatile, reactive, prone to giving and taking offense, to aggression, litigation, every kind of strife. Such activities must serve as some kind of compensation for your predicament—with all that vacant space between you, you’ll do anything to fill the air.

—From the author’s forthcoming collection, Wonders of the Invisible World

Publisher’s Note:

The poet read a slightly different version of this poem on 22 April 2021 for Poetry Goes Viral with Kimberly Simms, sponsored by Carolina Poets; Kimberly’s intro for Claire begins at 40:50 in the YouTube video of the reading.

Claire Bateman
Issue 8, June 2021

is the author of Wonders of the Invisible World (forthcoming from 42 Miles Press) and eight other poetry collections, including most recently, Scape (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2016) and Locals: A Collection of Prose Poems (Serving House Books, 2012). She has been awarded fellowships from the NEA and the Tennessee Arts Commission, and has received the New Millennium Writing Award (twice) and two Pushcart Prizes. She has taught at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, Clemson University, and various conferences, including Bread Loaf and the Bloch Island Poetry Festival.

Author’s blog: Claire Bateman New Art and Writing

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