Everything Sings — Cate Whetzel

You like the boxy bodies of the horses
that tilt across the rug at vases full of red
and green roses, the tiny triangles of the horses’
heads lowered to batter, their back legs singing
aggression. They look medieval, remind me
of war horses in the Bayeux Tapestry,
but that’s all French (or even English) to you.
To you, the rug is soft. It appeared one day.
Tora Bora is a funny sound. It doesn’t mean
“black widow.” Your aunt sent you a birthday
present from far away: a stuffed iguana
embroidered “Guantanamo Bay” in yellow
script. Perhaps that is its name. To you,
horses make one noise, the cow, in her curly
topknot, another. You invert order, break
apart assembled toys, upend the farm to hear
mechanical animal cries, split gates, unpen
the penned sheep, now on their sides in the rug’s
blue river. Your little table plays music,
Camptown Races on a tinny piano, but not
the lyrics, the Southern patois does not factor
into a child’s vernacular. What is a race track?
Why are the ladies there? To you, it is a song
you don’t like much. Your father and I turn
you away from the news when we watch at night.
Bad things keep happening all around the house
and elsewhere. You hear sirens and fire trucks
sing through your windows, and sometimes
as we walk down the street a red engine blows past,
screaming. You scream too, at it, at the vacuum,
at the ladies endlessly blow-drying their hands
in the shopping mall bathroom, but mostly you sing
as you eat fruit and dismantle your bread,
as you deconstruct your breakfast from substance
to essence. To you, the breeze sings because
it wants to, and the swing sings because it rocks
you. The table sings, for that is its nature, and I sing,
as I have since you were born, the same song,
like a mechanized bird on a bough in a city
too old to name. I sing for you, too.


Cate Whetzel is a graduate of Indiana University’s M.F.A. program and a former editor of Indiana Review. Her poems have appeared in Gargoyle, Crazyhorse, The Louisville Review, Crab Orchard Review, Damselfly Press and elsewhere. She is currently the Program Developer at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site in Nashville, Indiana, and lives in Bloomington with her husband, poet Ben Debus, and their adorable son.