Competence by Anna Kahn

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Yukata Seki

There is nothing in this room
for those who have not learned to
sing without thinking, who don’t know
where the music fits in their bodies, how
to smash it open and live it without tearing
the neighbouring muscles. We have nothing
for those startled by their own tone, who can’t
feel it before they breathe in. We stand in a circle,
the only audience a sparrow outside the back door.
We close our eyes and know ourselves by the intake
of our breath and the whisper of our steps on the carpet.
Four voices, four notes, we become bigger than ourselves
the sound bigger than this back room and its watching sparrow.
We are small and empty and it fills us and covers us, our corneas
and the webbing between our fingers all sound, even our toe bones
employed, knowing how it goes. We couldn’t make this if we were thinking.
How could our chests fill if we were trying to fit this wild thing around our ribs
as it pulsed and shifted and swelled, if it had not already made home inside them?

The silence aches. We find
ourselves small and empty
all cartilage and gristle
where before there
was resonance.
When I open
my eyes

the sparrow is gone.


Anna Kahn is a member of the Roundhouse Collective and is in her second year as a Barbican Young Poet. She lives in London with two cats and one human. By day she works in tech doing something largely inexplicable. She blogs at scribblingbadger.wordpress.com and tweets at @AnnaCarlaKahn.