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Friday doesn't always have to make a party sound

Steve Healey is a local poet, who recently wrote a book about that giant river outside Minneapolis' window. Our own Sarah Fox, a 3rd year MFA candidate, interviewed Healey about the magic of spelling M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i, Betty Crocker, and the animals that wander into poems for the Coffee House Press website.

2 Mississippi
Steve Healey

Standing next to the river, I recorded the sound
of the river in an attempt to represent that sound
more accurately than my earlier description of it,
which compared the river sound to someone
saying "shhhh." I rewound the tape and played it back,
and the recording also sounded like someone saying
"shhhh," but then I remembered that I was listening
to both the recording of the river and the river itself,
and I could not with absolute certainty distinguish
one from the other. It sounded like the two sounds
synchronized into one "shhhh," but at times they
seemed to separate, as if telling each other to be quiet,
like accomplices committing a crime. Or they may
have both been telling me to be quiet, despite the fact
that I was producing no sound, or so I thought.
Retreating swiftly and quietly to the privacy
of my own home, a safe distance from the river itself,
I listened again to the recording of the river sound.
This time it sounded like a perfectly preserved memory
of the river, a solitary "shhhh" moving inexorably
toward the Gulf of Mexico, and just as I felt liberated
from the burden of having to remember the river
through my own mental activity, the recording stopped,
precisely at the moment when I had turned off
the tape recorder. Then I remembered that the river
itself was elsewhere, continuing its perfect sound
forever, and that I would never be able to represent
that continuousness accurately. I remembered,
however, that I could take a length of magnetic tape
on which that river was recorded and splice the ends
together to form a loop which I could then play
continuously. The sound could keep going "shhhh"
all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, telling all the cars
and condos to be quiet. It's worth remembering,
however, that a river is not a person, and that a person
saying "shhhh" eventually needs to stop making
that sound, either to inhale or die. There would be no
other choice, unless of course I recorded myself
saying "shhhh" and played a loop of that recording
continuously, in which case I'd no longer need
to remember myself. I'd be immortal
in the privacy of my own sound.

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