AN EXERCISE: UNCLEAR MEANINGS

A distinctive behavior of P. leucopus–white footed mice– 
is drumming on a hollow reed or a dry leaf with its fore paws. 
This produces a prolonged musical buzzing,  the meaning of which is unclear. 

~animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu

Certainly this has meaning
though to us it is unclear.
Vibration, the distinctive
sound of reed buzz or dry leaf
conveys something not hollow
to a mouse ear.  Musical,

as they hear it, musical
and full of mousey meaning–
to humans merely hollow,
secret, amusing, unclear.
The mouse drums on a dry leaf–
each drummer so distinctive,

and since it is distinctive
each mouse causes musical
tones to differ, choosing leaf-
dryness to sound each meaning.
I think this is very clear.
I make tunes on a hollow

flute by shaping the hollow-
ness in patterns, distinctive
fingerings, not so unclear
as sweet, piercing, musical.
Just so, the mouse’s meaning
sounded on the the drumhead leaf–

drummed upon the sounding leaf–
dry, resonant, and hollow.
He drums to make a meaning!
Each mouse drum is distinctive,
vibration so musical,
and I’m sure I make it clear–

yes, I’m sure that this is clear–
a mouse’s drumming a leaf
is how he’s making music.
Our prejudice is hollow–
each mouse-sound is distinctive;
each music has a meaning.
(This is a sestina–with the words at the ends of lines repeating in a complicated pattern.)

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