Voice by Brian Bartlett

Poem title: Voice
Poet name: Brian Bartlett
Poem: One midsummer night, a man’s broken fury 
reaches us from the apartment windows 
beyond our crab-apple tree. Baritone blustering 
falls upon us like a sports fan’s protests
or a deranged dictator’s howls.
“Liar! — Moron! — Dickhead!—Shut up, 
just shut up!”
			   Background murmuring 
suggests a second person in the room,

then the next night, and the next,
the same or similar words, as if strangers 
re-played recorded files of rage
to keep us awake when we want sleep,
to tell us that lunar-blessed good humour 
and calm are frauds, the true nature
of our species to bicker under the moon. 
No slurring, no hints of drunkenness.
Is he a new neighbour who will be with us
for years, or an out-of-town visitor, soon to disappear 
before we see his face or learn his name?

1 a.m., a week later, his tempo and tone 
have changed, too urgent to be mellow,
yet story-telling—“home,” “sister,” “misunderstand,” 
“won’t trust me”—in well-built sentences
as if, alone, he were practising a script, or trying 
out an autobiographical sketch on nobody
but the mute night, unaware how clear 
his voice is, how well it travels from yard
to yard. We’re unsure whether to press our faces 
into the window screen to hear better—
	or step back into ourselves and slide the panes 
shut against the nakedness of those words.
End of poem. 
Credits and bio: Copyright © Brian Bartlett
Previously published in Grain, 50.4 (Summer 2023)
Brian Bartlett has published seven collections and eight chapbooks of poetry, including The Watchmaker’s Table, Wanting the Day:Selected Poems and The Afterlife of Trees. His other works included a selection of his prose on poetry, and three books of nature writing, most recently Daystart Songflight: A Morning Journal. Bartlett has also edited several volumes of other poets’ selected poetry, and Alden Nowlan’s Collected Poems. Since 1990 he has lived in Kjipuktuk/Halifax.