WHITE NOISE

In the Time of the Great Waves, December 2004

A small machine creates peace. Like a radio tuned to ghost
messages, it creates electronic sound and nothing more: no music,
words, sound effects. Hear it instead of city noises—it jams
awareness of shouts, car horns, cries of children, marching boots,
screams of the drowning, manifestos, sports results.

In the country: block the barking dogs, the psychotic neighbor.
I used to lie in my hammock under the hemlocks. Now I stay inside
and listen to white noise. White noise aids meditation or at least
stops thoughts of your mistakes, your wounds, your insensitivities,
what everyone’s done to everyone else.

All the words: declarations of love or loyalty, pledges of protest,
lies about you, rants about me—white noise is better than silence.
It isn’t white, of course, but devoid of color. The white race isn’t white,
either, and a race isn’t what we thought it was. White magic isn’t powerful
like the other kind. White noise isn’t clearer if you listen hard.

It has no message. It’s notable for what it isn’t. Just like you and me.
White noise is Post Modern: it contains its own contradiction—these times
are sick with paradox and irony: politics that celebrates incompetence
and deceit, children hurt by those obliged to nurture—air, water, food
destroying life—voices of dissent ineffective as white noise.

Outside the window, the forest and fields are white with snow that will last
for months. The sky is white, hiding the sun. The hours of light are short:
the sun is weak or hidden. We need to buy lights to counteract the desire
to retreat to bed, to hibernate. Light for your eyes, white noise for your ears.
Aspartame for taste. Scent machines hide the smell of decay.

These are times to sleep through; wake if the nightmare ends. Then open
windows, open the door. Listen. Hear the clatter of a thousand leaves
tousled by the wind. Taste tomatoes warm from the sun. Press flesh
that smells of jasmine and spice. Or stay in the empty room, watch
the white sky, hear the white noise.

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