Carlos Andrés Gómez: “C(h)ord”

“C(h)ord,” by Carlos Gómez deals with the past haunting one’s moves through the present. He creates a powerful set of rich imagery that disturbs the ordinary, mundane ways we recall memory: “I try to make/friends with the silence. Hold its endless weight, tell myself/it is another kind of song.” I love the way Gomez lets the speaker fly language out into an open space so that a failed relationship still has the potential for renewed grace.

— F. Douglas Brown, author of ICON, poetry prize judge



My voice box is my father in homeroom at thirteen: muted. Minus
            two words: Thank you—the only in English he knew. Like

the switch got flipped to Spanish and I am sifting my memory for
            shadows folded into syllables that ghost my throat.

My father’s happenstance gratitude and lonely adolescence
            now haunt my larynx. My throat is a Catholic school

hallway crowded with scar tissue and silence. Every thing becomes
            my music-less throat: the labyrinth of concrete above me,

cracked plates stacked on the kitchenette’s heaving chest, an unplanned
            window in the hem of my love’s plaid skirt, spittle

of ice through the haze of dusk in late December. I try to make
            friends with the silence. Hold its endless weight, tell myself

it is another kind of song. And this, after a life spent filling
            its bottomless silo with noise: each time we moved and

I had no one to call or share my boredom with, I would invite
            invented friends into my bedroom. I would coax them

into my dreams to listen. And they would: sit, quietly, by
            the dresser and let me speak. But now I cannot

do anything but rest my ear against the widening gut
            of that hollow drum of silence, imagine what I will

not be able to hear from my own mouth for another week.
            There is no proof I will ever again speak, ever

offer the tuned vibrations of my electric breath to a room
            gorged wall-to-wall with the lustrous splendor

of listening. I feast on a banquet of steam, toast with a trio
            of trills, yawn my soft palate into grace, start with one

minute of sound, then two, four then eight, rebuilding
            the locomotive of stubborn flesh that pistons tremors

through my sacred jaw. I am a child’s toy learning
            to produce a single note. I am sheet music bound to

the shaky hand of a blind man straining his memory for chords
            that just minutes ago rose up through his torso

like a flourish of color and foliage in spring. The cord in my throat
            that has hemorrhaged from misuse is the same instrument

I must trust with my life to jumpstart my stalled vocal
            folds and guide my flawed body back into the world

I have abandoned. Faith is a sanguine apparition I move
            my lips towards like a reed I am wetting in preparation

for sound. It begins as a soft rumble that undresses
            its pinched frequency, rattles kinetic like a neutron’s

frenetic swell of current and then, finally, it’s there: full-
            bellied thunder, boundless and unbroken.

What are you looking for?