Ulf Kirchdorfer: In Silence

Some people want to make something creepy
out of ventriloquists, as if their occupation
could legitimately be accosted, whereas funeral
directors get a pass, perhaps because the very
same people who speak ill of the honest thrower

of voices are squeamish about death and what
might happen to them one day when they arrive;
well I have known ventriloquists in my day,
all the way from ones that are not so good
but still good enough to perform at birthday parties

for children wetting their pants between fighting
over who plays with what toy and will the birthday
cake be chocolate, and one or two who made
the circuit around hotels, balancing their doll on
the knee for civic groups and occasionally audiences

that admitted and wanted dirtier tastes satisfied
by a man with a doll and hinged jaw, a freckled
face, eyes big and with lashes, the stereotype
familiar like sherbet after certain Chinese food
or ice cream at home wondering if cows really

walk green pastures, happily give milk, feel
nothing bad at least as long as they give milk.
This one ventriloquist I know was driving through
the rain in Iowa between motel gigs, wipers louder
than the music on the radio, and in the back in his

custom-made trunk it was as if Eddie sensed
his driving man’s loneliness and opened Sesame
to sit in the passenger seat, humming a song,
calming the ventriloquist driving, wipers still
making noise, he thinking nothing strange of

the appearance of the doll, happy as a cow
in Brennan pastures both of them were,
two souls in different skins, lacquer for one,
itchy human kind for driver through the rain,
ready to get to the motel and get the talking over with.

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