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Thursday, 16 April 2009


Tinnitus: hiss
of the viper, viperish
hiss, kiss of death,
death of silence, its bliss.

Shhhh, sound for no sound,
for hush, word for silence,
word meant to brush
sound under the carpet,
escaping and breaking
in wave upon wave, crashing
through the sound barrier.

We call it white noise
that is muddy, distorted,
then booms its confusion
embracing all sound
(as white is all colours)
from sizzle to whistle,
from gong to bird song.

Heard or unheard, it's
the sound of the gas
creeping into the chamber,
din from within
the heart of creation.

Sea-heart and surf-roar,
wave-break and shell-speak,
babble of voices rise to
crescendo, siren
and word-like, though wordless
and barren 'til peak swell,
the stopper, kills all
but the viper,
kills all but its hiss,
death to silence, its bliss.

Tommaso Gervasutti has posted a poem which he thinks (and I agree) has affinities with that of my previous post, The Shivering. You might like to check it out.


jinksy said...

"wave-break and shell-speak"... Loved these words - reminded me of an old conch shell my Granny Ada kept on her piano; it used to fascinate me with its internal sea-sounds. Your poem captured the essence of tinnitus to perfection.

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

I like the assonance in this piece as well as the word imagery. I don't know what it must be like to suffer from tinnitus but you have created a vivid picture!

Stephen Dell'Aria said...

A fascinating and excellent poem. I wonder about self induced white noise. I have to have it to keep silence from frightening me but to suffer from a noise that can't be controlled....

A Cuban In London said...

'hiss, kiss of death,
death of silence, its bliss.'

You're a sculptor, dave. The linguist inside me read this line over and over until it stopped making sense for the beauty of a poem is conveyed in just a few words sometimes. This is absolute beauty. The poem as a whole and the punctuation is spot on. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Mind you, the tinnitus sufferer might have a different opinion on the matter altogether.

Greetings from London.

Cathy said...

I've read up on this alittle since I read your poem. I had never heard of this before and I would think it would drive me crazy. The list of some of the famous who have suffere from it was interesting as well. I enjoyed the poem. It makes me feel pity for those who suffer from this. I love my silence.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Sir Dave........I hope that you are publishing your prose. What a record of your eloquence you are leaving with posting your powerful words.

Steady On
Reggie Girl

John Hayes said...

Really excellent-- I think this may be my favorite among your posted poems I've read. Love the language & the ease of the form.

Karen said...

I thought there was no way to describe tinnitus, then you wrote this. My favorite lines:

"Heard or unheard, it's
the sound of the gas
creeping into the chamber,
din from within
the heart of creation."

White noise. Everlasting...

pencilportraits said...

My friend has tinnitus, I showed her this and she said that's just what it's like.

Gagan said...

How beautifully written:)

Loved these lines:
'hiss, kiss of death,
death of silence, its bliss.'

'Tinnitus' described like never before.

Wanda said...

Wonderful poem...says so many meaningful things to me...

'hiss, kiss of death,
death of silence, its bliss.'

I love the silence before Dawn...

The Weaver of Grass said...

Good poem Dave - I too suffer from tinitus - I like silence being bliss - the sound I get most often is of an engine -lay my head on the pillow and the engine starts up immediately. Also I recognise the viper's hiss.

hope said...

Never has one man made such an annoying condition sound exotic. :)

My bout with it was temporary, but you nailed every nuance. Standing ovation!

Aniket said...


I see my old friend Gagan and I think alike on this one too.

"kills all
but the viper,
kills all but its hiss,
death to silence, its bliss"

I was in complete awe by the line.

Nicely done Dave... as always. :-)

PurpleClover said...

Beautiful poem!!

But as a student nurse, I must say you should report this to your doctor. lol. It may be as simple as lowering your dose of asprin or antibiotics. ;)

But then again, what would we read??

Artist Unplugged said...

Powerful and maybe quite painful. You can certainly write!

Poetikat said...

These lines really struck me:

"the sound of the gas
creeping into the chamber" - Are you equating the tinnitus with a death-knell?


Mary Ellen said...

Every once in a while, one of your poems speaks to me, and this was such an occasion. My dad suffered from tinnitis and it really affected both his sanity and his quality of life. When he passed away, one of my first thoughts was of the blessed silence he was most assuredly enjoying.

Din from within, indeed.

Great job.

Mark Kerstetter said...

I'm so glad I don't suffer from this, I'm already so sensitive to sound. You've shown how to turn pain into pleasure - excellent sound poem.

willow said...

This one is just wonderful, Dave. Hope you aren't plagued with this annoying condition.

Madame DeFarge said...

Very much enjoyed this one and very glad not to suffer. Liked the imagery of the viper too.

Jenn said...

I first read the poem without knowing the definition of the word tinnitus, just to see what type of feeling I got. Then upon looking it up and rereading I had a completely different feeling. Fantastic imagery here, I especially love the line "Sea-heart and surf-roar".

Dick said...

Excellent organisation of language in the depiction of this state, Dave. A powerful and well-crafted piece.

Dominic Rivron said...

I also suffer from it - but quite mildly, I think, from what other sufferers say. The composer Smetana suffered from it. He described his as the "shrill whistle of a first inversion chord of A-flat in the highest register of the piccolo."

lakeviewer said...

Dave, I have an award for you at sixtyfivewhatnow.

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

My cousin suffers from this ailment, and suffers is the right word. I can't imagine what it must be like, but your poem brings me closer to understanding.

Poetic Artist said...

As always your words as perfect, even if it speaking of a painful way of life. I do hope you are publishing a book of all your work.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Wonderful poem.

How sad that tinnitus distorts these marvelous sounds:

"from sizzle to whistle,
from gong to bird song."

Four of my favorites, grouped so brilliantly.

We've been getting lots of bird song lately. That makes me very happy! And tomorrow we'll have the sizzle of salmon on a soaked cedar plank cooking on our grill. Yum!

Happy weekend, Dave and friends!

Dave King said...

Jinksy Two minds on the same wavelength: it was a conch shell I had in mind. Many thanks for the kind remarks.

Derrick I guess it's different for each person - or that's how it seems, comparing notes. Mine is not as bad as some.

Stephen It's always there, but I don't always hear it. Concentration is the best medicine.

A Cuban in London Thanks for those many kind words. Some tinnitus sufferers might, I agree.

Cathy Yes, you do miss the silence: there's no way round that.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff Alas, no, but thanks for the encouragement.

John Lovely comment, thanks.

Karen Appreciated.

pencil portraits Thanks for that.

Gagan Welcome and many thanks.

Wanda Welcome. I know what you mean. As I said above, it is possible to trick yourself into thinking it's not there.

The Weaver of Grass That sounds much worse than anything I get. I sometimes get a hum, as might be from a powerful piece of electical machinery.

hope Thank you very much. Appreciate that. If it comes back, give it a homely, friendly name. (Mine varies - at the moment it's George.)

Aniket Thanks again.

Purple Clover Welcome. I did report it, I had the MRA scan. Full works. But thanks for the advice.

Artist Unplugged It's a way of getting back at it! Thanks.

Poetikat That did worry me - that I might be thought to be comparing an annoyance with the great 20th C tragedy, but no, that was not the intention.

Mary Ellen It sounds as though he really suffered. I am reatively fortunate - so far, at least. Thanks for the comments, though.

Mark Many thanks for that.

willow Plagued would be too strong a word - most of the time!

Madame DeFarge I very much appreciate those remarks. Thanks.

Jenn That's an interesting sidelight on it. Thanks.

Dick Thanks Dick for such helpful comments.

Dominic I've always wished I was a composer. Even more so now. How wonderful to be able to put it in its place so comprehensively!

lakeviewer Thanks, will be there anon.

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat Thanks for that.

Poetic Artist If only...

Fantastic Forrest Yum indeed. Enjoy your weekend, too. Thanks for all your encouragement.

julia ward said...

Hi David,


a blessed poet you are. You remind me of my beloved Dylan Thomas.

Feel free to stop by my blog. I'm sponsoring a Poetry Friday and would love it if you would honor us with a contribution.


Lucy said...

It's a little like the things you did with what you saw behind your eyelids; I don't know how you mange to hold onto those things.

I like the way it moves between the hellish and the sublime -

'the sound of the gas
creeping into the chamber,
Sea-heart and surf-roar,
wave-break and shell-speak...'

Again you make a wonder out of hell's despite.

Dave King said...

JuliaWow, mentioned in the same breath as Dylan Thomas! I'm embarrassed, but very grateful for your comments. I shall stop by. Thanks for asking. I am honoured as well as flattered.

Dave King said...

LucyIf only... but I very much appreciate your stopping by to comment. Much thanks.

Helen said...

.. as life moves forward - should I develop this condition - I will have a most expressive way of describing it ~ of feeling it.

Ronda Laveen said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am honored. How did you get to me? I am always intrigued. Is Tinnitus your work?

Dave King said...

HelenNice of you to say that, but I shall hope that you do not.

RondaWelcome to my blog. I "floated" across to you, saw your icon on another blog - can'r recall which one (sorry), found it a very good experience. Yes, Tinnitus is my work. Many thanks to you for the visit.

Roxana said...

ha, i didn't know the meaning of the word 'tinnitus' so i have struggled all along to imagine what it could be, amazing experience :-)

the beginning is fabulous.

Steven G said...


I have just developed this effect since January of this years. Mine is not as bad as some, but it was certainly disappointing to hear that it is "permanent". My ENT Doc says his is like ringing and it wakes him up at night. Ironic for the poor man. Mine is the hiss, the gas.

May I ask how long you have had yours? I'm 56 and just got on board.

Thanks for the poem, too.

Our friend Jeanne has autopsied a few of my poems, and her technical swordsmanship is incredible. Your prose is inspirational, indeed. It's great to be reading you. Now I just have to get into the habit of stopping by more often.

steven g

Ruth said...

Happiness to meet you at my blog, then read your poems - a rare treat finding good ones in a blog.

Effective language for this bothersome syndrome. My husband has it too. I'm glad its sound doesn't drown out your own ear for lyricism or discourage your voice. On the contrary, it seems to have aided you. Lovely.

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth said...

Oops, I intended another comment to be posted at my blog for you and posted it here instead. I've deleted and put it where it belonged, on mine. :)

Old Knudsen said...

Wow powerful imagery that connects to something so annoying and always there yet deemed trivial but isn't if you suffer from it.

I don't have Tinnitus but I can't remember hearing true silence in years.

Adrian LaRoque said...

Love it Dave!

zorlone said...

The words appear to be random but were harmoniously danced together.

This is definitely done by a master.


Self-Proclaimed Mistress of Nothing said...

Dave, this is brilliant. It's gives me much insight to something my husband experiences. I will have to share this poem with him.

You are a true craftsman of words. BRAVO!!!!

Dave King said...

Roxana Too late I realised I should have provided a link to an explanation. Sorry about that.
Appreciate you taking the trouble, though.

Steven Hi Steven. i suppose I've had mine for almost 20 years now, so we're becoming old friends. I went suddenly deaf in one ear and was left with the condition. (I'm 75) Mine is mostly the hiss, but sometimes a hum and occasionally a cllanng - though that is a one-off, it doesn't clang all the time! Like yours, mine is not as bad as some.

Ruth Thank you for such encouraging remarks. Concentration - as when writing - doesn't get rid of the noise, but it can make me unaware of it for a while. And then I'm quite surprised to find I've still got it when it returns! See you at your blog, then.

Old Knudsen Welcome, and many thanks for that. Do you mean that silence no longer exists in the world around us?

Adrian Thanks muchly!

Zorlone If only, if only... but thanks and welcome!

Self-Proclaimed Mistress of Nothing Many thanks - I'd be interested to hear what your husband has to say about it, though.

David C. said...


I also live with tinnitus. I've tried a vitamin supplement with alpha lipoic acid, which may decrease tinnitus, although I couldn't appreciate any difference. It's not bad enough to make me want to cut off my ear a la Van Gogh (some speculate that he had tinnitus), but it's always there.

Your poem is very nicely done, indeed.

Mairi said...

One of the phrases I have flagged in this week's TLS is -"We can see the darkness and hear the silence." I think I'll skip it as you've covered it perfectly here. Re Tommaso's poem and it's affinties to Shivering, which I really liked, I think a poem of my own called 'Mouswald', posted sometime in March, is also mining the same vein. "What if the past was not a house you inherit,
or a landscape you could enclose and call your own?" All, as you say " the raw material for ghosts we make." A wonderful phrase that one, just touching on a powerful truth and going on.

Patrice said...

Others have said it so well - I just want to add that for me you've made this plague of hearing a balm to the ear (and mind).

I'll never regard my tinnitus the same way again.


Crafty Green Poet said...

Yes that's very like the real thing,

Dave King said...

David C Welcome to my blog and commiserations to you. I, too, do not have it that badly. Have not tried any cures, though.

Mairi I shall try to track down your poem. Thanks for mentioning it and for the contribution generally.

Patrice That is a really precious comment. Thank you for it.

Crafty GHreen PoetThanks for that.

San said...

Great sounds. Great rhythms. It must have been a challenge to try to restrict the "imagery" to auditory. You did it, Dave.

Dave King said...

SanWelcome and a very perceptive point. It was a great temptation to spread the net wider. Thanks for that.

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