Opera Of Yawns

When their largely unused bodies slump
at desks, one yawn sets off the next which sets off

the next which sets off the next until there is only
this miming-time of mouths. And they fall, they fall,

the thirteen of them, into a lazy sort
of composition which, from where I stand, most resembles

a pastiche of the Last Supper, a company of prisoners
leaning and sprawling into its place—mild Bartholomew,

James the Younger and Andrew, feeling their prickly scalps;
Judas lunging forward on one elbow, suffering his barber-embargo;

Peter yawning his way through his crop of accusations
while the circuit of the yawn has reached quiet Matthew,

sad Thaddeus, Simon and the others, our Christ-like Quraishi
haloed by the light-bulb. From here, for now,

they appear of supernatural size, serving their time
by shifting this way and that, shifting this way and that

and yawning for the absence of news, a little way off,
as yet, from the garden of the hacked ear.

Or else it might be a mime of men laughing
at some missed, too-long-to-follow and encoded

joke, a miming of the voice-loss aria …
and all they have from which to read the words

is the hooded autocue which drops into their minds
white slide after white slide, a jerked

shuttering of wiped whiteness through which they stare
to the white wall, to ever more widening particles

of white, without feature or plot, on which only
great operas of crime can possibly be projected

with huge exaggeration … the eye open, the retina asleep.
And they yawn, and they yawn, and they dredge

the silt for the deepest yawn of all
as if, for every depth they reach, they mouth the highest note

and hold this posture in which they might conserve
a certain sort of power from knowing there is

air, three inch-thick glass and a safety curtain
between them and the auditorium of the deaf.

by Tim Liardet

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