by Cristina Legarda

It hasn’t been the same since Simon Peter swung 
his sword at me. I ducked, but just not far enough. 
He got my ear, blood everywhere, but I could still 
make out the shouts of men on either side, and then 
a voice unlike the rest, a Tower of Babel against 
the din, with talk of cups and drinking and I know
not what. In all that chaos, he was calm, though when 
he touched my bleeding head, it burned so painfully 
that I cried out. But then he took his hand away, 
and in its place: my ear restored, more perfect than 
it’d ever been, even tiny bones within, 
minute stones and cochlea suffused with warmth 
and mystery, my hearing now so clear and sharp 
I heard the beating of his heart, the movement of 
each ancient tree inside that olive grove, the whispers 
at the city gates, the soldiers’ hardened thoughts.
I thought: dear God, please take this clarity away.
I cannot bear the secrets of the suffering world,
the struggling love in every heart impeded in its 
flowing out, the lowing beasts, the tortured cries 
of every trampled blade of grass, the platyhelminths
and the desert rock, the cedars stretching high
above. And faraway, inside the sea, the whales
are singing smothered in the deeps, unheeded, bathed
in silence. I can hear them in my kitchen now, 
as I wipe platters with a rag, the mothers calling
to their calves, their bodies breathing as they breach 
and fall again against the waves, the ripples from 
their ecstasy dispersed against the farthest shores, 
where hermit crabs create elaborate designs 
in sand, their little steps a patter in my mind, 
like raindrops on the leaves of trees, writing notes 
that only I can hear. The children. Children! How 
they cry. Please take this cup away from me. It is
too much, this perfect ear, too full of songs I can’t 
revise, or bear, or sing, of stories I can’t write.

Cristina Legarda was born in the Philippines and spent her early childhood there before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. She is now a practicing physician in Boston. Her work has appeared in America magazine, The DewdropDappled Things, PlainsongsFOLIORuminate, The Good Life Review, and others.

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