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52 heartz

Kathrin Schadt (2020)

Barcelona, July 1, 2019

Early in the morning in the old forge in Barcelona. A white coffee on my desk, my tear, as they used to call my way of having coffee back in Argentina, “una lágrima”, because one tear of coffee is poured into a cup of hot milk. I remember how surprised I was when I lived there that there was a country that had found a word for my coffee whereas elsewhere it takes endless explanations and I still get served the wrong thing. Argentina had these concise names for everything, astonishing, often long sought precise images, conveyed on this bed of schsch sounds. Argentina, place of longing. A retrospective glance through the several meters high wrought iron gate now and here in Barcelona. In the Carrer Nou de la Rambla, glowing hot from summer, even in the morning chewing gums are yawning from shoe soles and the weekend’s sand trickles from pants pockets of Catalan children. On my shoulder Tapatoc is sitting, he is Argentine, of course, what else?, a foundling, crippled parrot, and it would not surprise me, if he wore a wooden leg and an eye patch. He sits there for hours while I am writing, as if I were the palm tree on which he nests, as if he had found me instead of me finding him, conquered me, who finds it owns it, he wanders from one ear to the other, preening his feathers and shrieking, feeling offended when I dare move him to another place. His screaming is a problem, time and again I find myself yelling at him from my desk to his cage to finally make him shut up. However, this is simply his way of communicating, he cannot do it any other way and my desperate cry for quiet is nothing that he could understand. My hearing disorder shortly after he had moved in – I daresay that he had his share in it. There were moments when I thought I would have to give him away, because of my ears, because of the volume, enough is enough, damn poultry, I never really liked birds! And then he curls up, cat-like, into my hand’s cavity and lets me fondle his head, only me and nobody else. Places his beak at my cheek and stays like this for a tender moment. Crawls up my cardigan in winter, fumbles himself into my shawl and rests in it like in a hammock, while I write. And I know I could never break up my friendship with him, let alone give up my loyalty. Tapatoc is an Argentine Monk Parakeet, whose claws, beak and wings have not just been clipped but amputated. I found him in Montjuïc in Barcelona, because not only had he been mutilated but also dumped (probably, because, understandably!, he was too loud). He has been living with me for two years now and I believe that I am rather nice to him. Most of the time he is hopping around freely in the forge and drives everybody crazy with his pecking, especially the dog. And it is absolutely amazing how this little something just one hundred grams heavy senses all of my moods instantly. When I am bad-tempered, he strikes an alert pose and will not let me touch him any more. When I am irritable or do not pay him proper attention, he will bite me in the hand just like he would do to a stranger. As much as he trusts me, he has also learned to distrust me – his provider, conveyer of happiness and of suffering that my predecessor seems to have been. I find this to be an absolutely extraordinary little being. Tapatoc, my smart little totem. Like every morning I am skimming through the paper with him, which he finds appalling, he tries to attract my attention, he climbs on my desk, shuffles over the pages with his crippled little feet, tiny fists without claws. I wipe him off the relevant article, on which he comments with a bite. And suddenly I stumble over a note. It catches my attention and, unplanned, my day begins to unfold with this piece of news. It enters me, like a melody that you think you know, like a scent that reminds you of something, a word you have long been looking for. The article is about the 52 hertz whale, the only whale singing on that frequency, all other whales sing lower. It is called the loneliest whale in the world because in spite of its calls it cannot find its peers. For two decades it has been swimming the Pacific Ocean, its chanting is heard by researchers but not by any fellow whales. There is only this one 52 hertz whale. No other whale ever responds. I start reading more about the whale, I do some research and then I clear my desk and instead of working on my novel I start writing a poem. And I know it instantly when reading the article, I understand immediately. The whale and I we are both swimming in the same sea, alone. We are sending signals on different frequencies which nobody can hear. Yet instead of stopping our transmission at some point, frustrated, we continue
sending out signals. And so I reply to the whale. With my own song. On my own frequency. Dear loneliest whale in the world: now there are two of us.

(52 heartz) for you and my brother philipp

i breathe from 52 heartz
only i am dancing on my spectrum
tiptoes dipped colorwise into the rainbow

the others’ breathing breathes itself out below me
we never ascend the musical scale jointly
we sing on different signatures
with me howling the eerie song of a profound tuba

maybe at the moon
definitely at the stars
with the regularity of a metronome
my calling turns into waves

and on the ground my wandering far from your presence
i cannot follow your sound but am dancing just a breath away from you
while using the tracks of some at the time of others
i have heard your callings finding each other
yet my song is only known to me
i sing in s i n g u l a r l a n g u a g e i call

out here out
here is where i am too

it is the one wide blue shimmering deep ocean that answers
year after year i tune myself lower like your call
i have been trying for decades to strike your chord
yet forever all that remains is the touch of water on my smooth skin
a mirror held into the starlit world looking for others of its kind

while only infinity continues in it
am i deaf because i do not speak your language?
or am i am a being in between of you
maybe the last of my kind who you do not wish to meet
routed on a frequency of days gone by
or a sound of the future
maybe i have always been there
and always will be
your echo maybe in space
that you cannot hear
and yet
is alone in this crowded ocean
still loneliness turns into something visible
and when i run out of breath i go to its surface and breathe out
because although for decades i have been shouting unanswered hymns

into the cold pacific ocean

i continue singing
life is the cold water
breaking over every back fin

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