Oliver de la Paz

On the Fenestra Ovalis

fenestra 1). A small opening, esp. either of two apertures
in the medial wall of the middle ear. 2). A windowlike
opening. 3). A transparent spot or marking, as on the wing of an insect.
–The American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College ed.

Who has not mistaken the pulse of blood
from behind the ears as footsteps? The trot
of a horse with a burr in its tail? And who has not heard
the hand saw, then seen the cloth to cover the face
of the dead, dragged on the ground for washing?
To hear the grate. To hear the dog’s nails
on the steps and the blossom in a sister’s hand,
her sandals sliding into the room–the butcher paper
she removes from a velvet box.
To hear a pair of blue insects with diaphanous wings
emerge from the velour, rubbing their glass rattles,
against each other.
Always the variable key—
in the distance, the horse drawn cart comes to take
the dead, the weight of the hooves
shake windows of the houses lining the street.
Always the latch and the scratched code of stone tablets
and the sounds that come from those who survive, their lips
looking for an ear. The living, they are not my name
or named in the Latin tongue of the body. They cannot be found
in the voice of the buried who have no hoof,
no blossom, no chord for a dog.

Oliver de la Paz
On the Fenestra Ovalis first appeared in The Los Angeles Review, No. 1 (2004).