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On finding a creative rhythm
I loved the sound of my classmates typing, the drumming of those other fingers enough to make me feel as if I were the featured player in a jazz combo.
- Tami Mohamed Brown

by Tami Mohamed Brown


The physical sensation of communicating has always felt like something of a race for me, the inner workings of my mind far quicker than I can begin to process.

When I have to speak, my mouth has to labor to keep up and I stutter, I stammer. Words that make sense in my mind catch in my throat, bash against my teeth, leaving me tongue-tied and frustrated.

I sometimes feel the odd sensation of the lack of breath, and I have to remind myself that I don't have to catch up to anything or measure up to anyone. It is only then that I remember to breathe, to remind myself that my process is a journey, not a sprint.

It has been the same with the act of writing, as well, with my hands. With a pencil, my fingers grip too hard, moving wildly across a sheet of paper. With a pen, the scribbles on the page become sloppy and illegible even to me, my printing growing larger and slanting backward, the ink pressing its way through to the other side of paper, leaving what appears as an illegible imprint, a backward etching, a vulgar form of Braille.

But in the ninth grade, I took a typing class at my high school.

In a tiny basement room full of 20 tapping keyboards, I felt a freedom that, at the time, I couldn't identify. I paid attention, without distraction, to a set order of meanings that produced not only sound, but also feeling. When I sat down to type, concentrating only on my fingers and the letters in front of me, I felt the same way I did when I played the piano, my head and thoughts and my entire being in time and in synch with the rhythm of ideas flying over the keyboard.

Sitting at the keyboard, I could transform those rhythms to words.

I loved the sound of my classmates typing, the drumming of those other fingers enough to make me feel as if I were the featured player in a jazz combo, like I was playing the one minuet I had committed to memory or banging out a show tune I had learned by ear, a soundtrack of my own creation.

The typewriter would later become a word processor with memory discs that took me through my college years. Later still, it was my computer that allowed for that same muscle memory and the joy of movement, those rhythms transforming my ability to communicate and express myself into a melody, a position of words that felt much like notes, paragraphs that became chords.

This still holds true when I write; sometimes, I begin in a burst of poetry that shifts and surprises, leading me in a direction I had no intention of taking.

But some days I'm afraid - as a reader, a writer, a listener and a speaker - that simple sounds and words are lost on me.

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Some days I'm afraid - as a human being - that I haven't got time, the noise in my ears and in my life moving so fast that I can almost hear everything whooshing by, days of multitasking becoming a whirring blur that make me feel small and limited, my own lonely heartbeat in my ears, pounding like a bass line as if to remind me of my own finite rhythm.

Sometimes, I recognize, too, that to listen to these things means I'm able to be still and to pay attention. That a playlist of silence, too, can hold far more power and weight than it seems to.

Tami Mohamed Brown lives in Bloomington with her family.





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