James Gurley

The 73 Octaves of Nature

You lie in the center of the MRI machine,
listen to the ceaseless, metallic
banging course through your blood.
You must remain still as a technician
charts the magnetic current,
the resonant spectrum now haloed
in black and white on the monitor.
The resonance flares through your skin,
in your veins so passionately entered.
The harmonics of shifting electrons
reflects the tenacity of bone and muscle.

Your flesh is sketched out
in all its tones and timbres.
The low electric vibrations map
the misshapen pituitary, the tumor's
evidence your doctor will later
call benign, some aberrant growth
on your skull's perfect architecture.

These humming and chording pulses
absorb the energy buried deep
inside you, the mystery itself--
how these radio waves, nature's
73 octaves are almost imperceptible.
We never hear them. Or feel
their touch upon us, like a memory
or an instinct to survive.

Eyes closed, you see the hard stone
in your skull begin to flower,
this corruption from within
slowly revealed in the oddly shaded
areas on the screen. As fear.
As notes that oscillate between protons
and emit these signals,
the roar in your ears carried
through the coils and instruments,
where your other self grows more vivid
in its thicket of frequencies,
its music spreading over
the landscape of your body.

Copyright 1996, James Gurley

James Gurley is an editor for Salmon Bay Review. "The 73 Octaves of Nature" is part
of a manuscript, Temple of Science, for which he received a 1993 GAP grant from the
Washington Artist Trust and a 1994 research and development grant from the Seattle
Arts Commission. "The 73 Octaves of Nature" also appears in his recent chapbook
Transformations (Reference West, Victoria, B.C., 1995). His poetry has appeared in
Poetry Northwest, Quarterly West, and Prism International.