Ode to My Ears

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block
Third Place, March 2021
Judged by Nicole Greaves

Could I hope for better silent partners?
than my ears? Skilled censors,
they filter out excessive noise.

Otherwise, I’d be overwhelmed,
like a man caught in an open field,
the sky everywhere a waterfall.

Who gives me the pleasure of music
but those recording engineers,
the ears? Music soothes me more

than a walk by running water,
my stress dissolving
like sugar spilled into a creek.

Who do I have to thank
other than those dears,
the ears, for staying alert as I nap?

For picking out my boss’ voice
approaching my cubicle, a sound
harsher than that of boots

on gravel. I have a small
coterie of employees
–hands, feet, elbows and more,

all queuing up for employee of the month.
My ears often the winner,
especially in my youth

when music was a language shared
by all my friends. Even now
I wonder how I can acknowledge

their value. I recall when Valerie
looked straight at me and whispered
“I love you”. I didn’t need to know

how to read lips to know
I’d often be the reason for Val
being late to work. Ears,

how can I ever repay
such a debt?

Poetry has long included a celebration of our bodies. When we think of such poems, we can't help but think of Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” that celebrates the body in its many forms and ultimately reminds us how the body helps to establish a sense of a soul. Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” reminds us how our body parts help us accomplish our tasks, our vocation. For Heaney’s father, it was hands that planted potatoes, but they helped him write. The body connects the thinking to the doing and the doing and the thinking. In “Ode My Ears,” the speaker celebrates his ears adeptness to “censor” and “filter” out the “excessive noise.” As this speaker notes: “Who do I have to thank / other than those dears, / the ears, for staying alert as I nap?” This clever poem is like Lucille Clifton’s “In Homage to My Hips,” where the ears like the hips possess power that moves beyond the speaker. They take on a life of their own as the humorous “silent partners” who know just what the speaker needs to hear, like Valerie’s “I love you.” It's our ears that often makes our mouths smile or heart rise. Feel. Indeed, how do we ever “repay such a debt?” --Nicole Greaves