Raymond Antrobus

Dear Hearing World

after Danez Smith

I have left Earth in search of sounder orbits, a solar system where the space between a star and a planet isn’t empty. I have left a white beard of noise in my place and many of you won’t know the difference. We are indeed the same volume, all of us eventually fade. I have left Earth in search of an audible God. I do not trust the sound of yours. You would not recognise my grandmother's Hallelujah if she had to sign it, you would have made her sit on her hands and put a ruler in her mouth as if measuring her distance from holy. Take your God back, though his songs are beautiful, they are not loud enough. I want the fate of Lazarus for every deaf school you’ve closed, every deaf child whose confidence has gone to a silent grave, every BSL user who has seen the annihilation of their language, I want these ghosts to haunt your tongue-tied hands. I have left Earth, I am equal parts sick of your “oh, I’m hard of hearing too” just because you’ve been on an airplane or suffered head colds. Your voice has always been the loudest sound in a room. I call you out for refusing to acknowledge sign language in classrooms, for assessing deaf students on what they can’t say instead of what they can, we did not ask to be a part of the hearing world, I can’t hear my joints crack but I can feel them. I am sick of sounding out your rulesyou tell me I breathe too loud, and it’s rude to make noise when I eat. Sent me to speech therapists, said I was speaking a language of holes, I was pronouncing what I heard but your judgment made my syllables disappear, your magic master trick hearing worlddrowning out the quiet, bursting all speech bubbles in my graphic childhood, you are glad to benefit from audio supremacy, I tried, hearing people, I tried to love you, but you laughed at my deaf grammar, I used commas not full stops because everything I said kept running away, I mulled over long paragraphs because I didn’t know what a “natural break” sounded like, you erased what could have always been poetry (strike that out). You erased what could have always been poetry. You taught me I was inferior to standard English expression, I was a broken speaker, you were never a broken interpreter, taught me my speech was dry for someone who should sound like they’re under water. It took years to talk with a straight spine and mute red marks on the coursework you assigned.

Deaf voices go missing like sound in space and I have left earth to find them.



“Oral speech was deemed as superior in order to communicate with God”--History Of Deaf Education (British Sign Language Zone)


My ear amps whistle
like they are singing to Echo, Goddess of Noise
wailing for her return as a ravelled knot
of tongues of blaring birds, of consonant crumbs
of dull door bells, of sounds swamped
in my misty hearing aid tubes.
Gaudi believed in holy sound
and built a cathedral to contain it
pulling hearing men from their faded
knees like Atheism is a kind of Deafness.
Who would turn down God?
Even though I have not heard
the golden decibel of angels
I have been living in a noiseless
palace where the doorbell is pulsating
light and I am able to answer.



that word becomes another echo,
a sound that keeps looking
in mirrors like it is in love
with its own volume.


I am a one word question,
a one man patience test.

What language would we speak
without ears?

Is paradise a world where
I hear everything?

How will my brain know what to hold
if it has too many arms?

Would you deafen yourself
if all you wanted to hear
was already a memory?



“the suffering that we don’t see still makes a sort of sound” - Kim Addonizio

Ten years after the diving accident, I’m having a hearing test.
I’m meant to press the button every time I hear a high note.
So, I’m pressing the button like a weak TV remote,
and the audiologist tells me the test hasn’t started,
I must be hearing her.

She is a constant bleep
in my life support. I remember how hard
she turned up as I walked out the blaring
Zulu Bar in Cape Town.
Where speakers with enough bass to ripple
waves in Milk Stout Beer squeals
like an annoying friend ringing at night.

I took her home to meet mum, but she couldn’t hear her name,
She called her my imaginary car alarm.
But mum knew we were serious when I heard her for a week straight.
She was the first woman who slept in my ears.

Love is a condition,
a siren I can’t unplug.
So, in one tone, she tells me,
it doesn’t matter how soundproof the room,
she will be there like background music,
a one-note opera,
my radio silence
tuning me out of loudness.