Signals in the Wild

Magdalena Ball


There was a running track inside

a guitar riff. It felt almost warm

too warm, flowing through

strained synapsis

forcing me out of my room.


I couldn’t become what I wanted

my body plump with humanity

not in a good way.


I was trying to listen

these big stupid ears

trained on the Kikuyu, the Ghost Gums

creaking, cracking ominously

a sound they never wanted to hear.


It wasn’t just the trees

speaking non words

showing off thorns, vibrating

waiting for the roar of fire

a wall of it, moving closer

the air was smoky.


Back when we kept bees

it was way of talking

not just the buzz

the way they inhabited one tree

sending out the alarm, a sudden increase

of sound, a warning scent

acetate, pheromones, the sharp sweet

sting of it, saying stop

back away now.


They were trying to communicate

in ultrasonic, long range frequencies

the danger coming

a drought alarm.


When it came, too late

we were not just blind

but also lacking

electrical signals

temperature sensors, the ability to detect

volatile compounds in the air

heavy metals

pathogens, gravity, heat.



Magdalena Ball is a novelist, poet, reviewer and interviewer, and is Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader.  She has been widely published in journals and anthologies and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction, most recently High Wire Step (Flying Island), and Unreliable Narratives (Girls on Key).

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