Bill Nelson

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In a small house in Berhampore I lie on the floor on my back
and feel the way my stomach expands as I breathe. This is how
you are, Charlie says, when you sleep. The mouth, he explains, just gets
in the way, the mouth does almost nothing. So we engage the nose
to loosen the chords and detach the jaw from the head, we pinch
our mouths shut and hum from the bottom A to the top A and even higher,
breaking, cracking, our tongues out, then in, rolled up over our teeth.
We flap our lips like kids making aeroplane noises, loose, drifting
away from the voice and we go for the church hall effect, rolling
hollow vowels in our mouths, tongues pushed against the backs
of our teeth. Breathing with the pelvis, slim, silent, hands on our sides,
the swell of air rising and rising, and the thin reed filling,
widening, snapping, popping shut, like two strings in our throats
doing the work, effortless and then, finally after the scales and slides,
the silence, the wails and wild animal howls we sing the words  
I have memorised and I can close my eyes and not look at the notes,
the notes don’t matter, the notes are bumps on the road, they will follow
where the breath goes if we only concentrate on the strings and not
on the notes. So we sing and I release the strings and accidentally
change the words in the line about love and giving it all away
and now it means something different, like taking it all back
but it doesn’t matter because I’m singing and it sounds good
and the song is in my head, and inside my head, and it’s not
coming from my mouth or my tongue or my mind, it’s not coming
from me at all. My eyes are closed because I don’t need them any more,
my fingers and my feet are unnecessary, my shoulders and my ears,
unnecessary, my heart, lungs and liver give a final wheeze and are
no longer necessary.

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