Francis Picabia, Têtes-paysage, 1928

I hear only echoes in the echo chamber. I knew this much when I left home for the hearing. They carved a great vault into the mountain to hold as many voices as it took to fill it. I practiced all my life to give my voice back in song before surrendering another octave. Even now I wait for word from my last appeal.

It’s hard to stay alive in a land of the dead. I throw my voice against the dark, a solitary birdcall on the dark side of the moon.

The black door slides open.

“My time is coming,” I call down long corridors that never end.

Voices echo back.

I hold my breath, wanting to join on the chorus. With the right notes, I might luck into a fair hearing. The dead cannot suppress their grievances. The great vault fills up with them. Their echoes do not provide all the reasons, just the hurt and regret.

Our keepers do not trust us to be alone with so much cacophony. Afraid we might make sense of it somehow and learn to make chaos into harmony. 

Raw appeals can be fine-tuned and deepened with chords that tone down the ego. Every voice can be heard yet no one voice can be identified. Every voice is an echo. If I touch a keeper with something sublime in my personal repertoire, I might be heard. They have heard so much already, voices that echo back forever, soundwave overlapping soundwave. They are seldom surprised. Their tastes have become refined. They prefer nuance to loudness.

The keeper who took my voice promised to lock it into a wooden box until it has been properly reviewed. Still, if a good word comes back, I might not recognize it.  

It’s hard to stay alive in a land of the dead. I throw my voice against the dark, a solitary birdcall on the dark side of the moon.

The black door slides open.

David Memmott
David Memmott has published five books of poetry, two novels and a story collection. His newest collection, Small Matters Mean the World, is forthcoming in 2022 from Redbat Books Pacific Northwest Writers Series and his Vietnam-era fantasy, Canned Tuna was published by Redbat in 2017) His long poem, “The Aging Cryonicist..." won the Rhysling Award and "Where the Yellow Brick Road Turns West,” which appears in Lost Transmissions was a finalist for the 2010 Spur Award from Western Writers of America. The Larger Earth: Descending Notes of a Grounded Astronaut was selected as one of 150 best poetry books for 150 years of Oregon statehood by Poetry Northwest and Oregon State Library. He is a Fishtrap Fellow, a Playa resident and recipient of three Fellowships for Publishing from Literary Arts, Inc., for his work as editor and publisher of Wordcraft of Oregon, LLC. He recently completed a new novel, Master Merlin, and is looking for a publisher. He is the founder of Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism. He lives in La Grande, Oregon, with his wife, Sue, and two yellow labs. His digital paintings can be viewed on his author website: davidmemmott.com. Photo by Sue Memmott.