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after Danez Smith

I have left Earth in search of sounder orbits,

a solar system where the space between

a star and a planet isn’t empty. I have left

a white beard of noise in my place and many

of you won’t know the difference. We are

indeed the same volume, all of us eventually fade.

I have left Earth in search of an audible God.

I do not trust the sound of yours.

You wouldn’t recognise my grandmother’s Hallelujah

if she had to sign it, you would have made her sit

on her hands and put a ruler in her mouth

as if measuring her distance from holy.

Take your God back, though his songs

are beautiful, they are not loud enough.

I want the fate of Lazarus for every deaf school

you’ve closed, every deaf child whose confidence

has gone to a silent grave, every BSL user

who has seen the annihilation of their language,

I want these ghosts to haunt your tongue-tied hands.

I have left Earth, I am equal parts sick of your

oh, I’m hard of hearing too, just because

you’ve been on an airplane or suffered head colds.

Your voice has always been the loudest sound in the room.

I call you out for refusing to acknowledge

sign language in classrooms, for assessing

deaf students on what they can’t say

instead of what they can, we did not ask to be a part

of the hearing world, I can’t hear my joints crack

but I can feel them. I am sick of sounding out your rules –

you tell me I breathe too loud and it’s rude to make noise

when I eat, sent me to speech therapists, said I was speaking

a language of holes, I was pronouncing what I heard

but your judgment made my syllables disappear,

your magic master trick hearing world – drowning out the quiet,

bursting all speech bubbles in my graphic childhood,

you are glad to benefit from audio supremacy,

I tried, hearing people, I tried to love you, but you laughed

at my deaf grammar, I used commas not full stops

because everything I said kept running away,

I mulled over long paragraphs because I didn’t know

what a natural break sounded like, you erased

what could have always been poetry

You erased what could have always been poetry.

You taught me I was inferior to standard English expression –

I was a broken speaker, you were never a broken interpreter –

taught me my speech was dry for someone who should sound

like they’re underwater. It took years to talk with a straight spine

and mute red marks on the coursework you assigned.

Deaf voices go missing like sound in space

and I have left earth to find them.

Dear Hearing World

Raymond Antrobus


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