Picture the big
midcentury rain
rinsing the windows of
the San Fran hospital
where it’s the goofy
John Cage’s job
this afternoon to babysit
a roomful of kids whose
parents just
doors down are
dying, so silently
with his spindle arms
he mimes first
a fast breaststroke
against the window’s
water then,
even better, strikes
the roboto pose
of a broken clock,
his sputtering, spastic
hands snapping
back and forth between
5 and 3
o’clock, then 9 then
3 again, 11, and all
to get these poor
kids laughing—
and they like it,
they do—haywire, wilder,
the crackup pace
increasing, he’s
slinging sweat now
across the dimming room,
his face flush,
rusting from
the effort of enforcing
time in its ludic,
lyric mode,
time of no
one orphaned
and no one bereft, a kind
of metaphysical
the kids rising to the sudden
lip of laughter now,
cinching their eyes and
stuffing shirt fronts
into their small
avid mouths
to stifle a sound
the rushing sense-
lessness of which
if we heard it
would strip us
utterly of custom
and warrant, like the sighing
curve cut
by stretcher tracks in ash
just fallen,
like the racket
toys make
when startled impossibly
into art…
But these kids, Amy,
they can’t make noise,
they’re in a hospital,
they know that, so
what are we
listening for?


Originally from Cleveland, OH, and a graduate of Oberlin College and Purdue University’s MFA program, Matt Kilbane is currently a PhD candidate at Cornell University. His work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Jacket2, DIAGRAM, the Best of the Net anthology, and elsewhere.