I’m Listening

by Dean Blehert

“I’m listening”
says the radio shrink,
meaning “Hold still —
I’m preparing to pounce.”

“I’m listening”
says the angry boss, parent, he-or-she-
to-whom-one-must-explain, meaning,
“Spill it!” — meaning “I haven’t heard
anything really stupid yet today…”.

“I’m listening,” says one’s spouse,
frowning, meaning, “Talk fast,
while the commercials last — Oh,
just a second, this one is funny…”.

“I’m LISTENING,” says teen to parent,
meaning, “So bore me already!”

“I’m listening,” student insists to teacher,
meaning, “Oops, you almost caught me.”

“I’m listening,” says the after-school monitor,
meaning “I told you kids to shut up. I know damned well
you’re smirking and whispering insulting things about me.
I’ll make you wish you hadn’t.”

“I’m listening,” parent says to child,
meaning, “Just tell me your cute stupid joke
already so I can beam and say, ‘that’s
WONDERFUL, honey!’ and get back
to my book/phone conversation/work…”.

“I AM listening,” one assures
spouse or child, meaning “Of course
I’m not listening! Can’t you see
I’m trying to get 20 things done here?”

“I’m listening,” the National Security Agency
might tell us if it ever spoke to us
in any voice we’d recognize.

“I’m listening” says our leader, “I’m listening
to you, America, and you’ve told me that you want
lower taxes, better health coverage and…” —
meaning, “thanks to my pollsters, I now know
what I have to tell you I’m giving you while I
give you what you’re going to get, whether
you want it or not.”

“I’m listening,” an angel of God
might tell us, weeping, if ever
an angel spoke to us. (They do try,
but choke on their luminous tears. For they
HAVE been listening to us.
The more they listen, the more
they glisten.)

This poem is for you, Reader,
but not for you to listen to.
If you ever said, “I’m listening,”
I wouldn’t know what to think.
I’m just a poet, not your father, teacher,
leader, insistent child, boss. I’m the food
you can toy with (at last!). You don’t need
to listen to me. Consider me an amiable noise,

like the warbling of songbirds in the early morning,
singing their love or lust or warnings for each other,
not for you. I’m swapping songs — mine rather crowlike —
with playmates. If our music (like birdsong)
creates a dawning space out in the world
beyond dim shades
that feels safe for waking up into…

But don’t listen to me. (I never do.) .
You dream me. I dream you. We live
in the dreams we dream for each other.
Let the Freudian listen to dreams, stick in
his thumb and pull out a symbolic plumb and say
“What a good shrink am I.” We don’t listen
to each other’s dreams, and most of us
don’t listen to birdsongs. We live in them.

Critics and scholars listen to poems
as fans sit in the stands and follow the players
by studying the program. Those of us
who can play, play.