Downtown New Haven runs approximately from Wooster Square in the east to Dwight in the west, and the very center looks like the epitome of an Old Prestigious University-setting. Stone bodies stemming from the 18th and 19th century, ornamented to look even older, are the main characters of this immaculate scenery. These large buildings tower above sun drenched streets and shadows of trees, under which students read. In every street-corner stands a police officer or a Yale security guard dressed in bright fluorescent yellow, the color of a marker pen used to highlight.

In Swedish the word for that pen is överstrykningspenna. En penna som stryker över: A pen that applies onto or A pen that crosses out. These highly visible bodies highlight the aim to cross out New Haven's Other, its shadow side. New Haven is, despite these efforts, still known for its poverty, its violent crime, the vast divide between those who have and those who have not. Walking to the Beinecke one morning I pass a signpost, with this written on it:


(a drawing of a sad face crying red tears) 

(Only Jesus
Can Do That

The word Amen is underlined twice.

Wherever you are in New Haven, the sounds of sirens seem to follow.

The apartment I stay in is borrowed from an art student and is situated at the edge of downtown. Having placed the sound recorder on the table by the window, the microphone reacts to the wind outside and the wood underneath. If I touch the table this touch is transferred into the very foreground of the recording.

Reading is layered with resounding surroundings, now –
what is enters into what was
and highlights
the act of reading – the reader’s physical placements, positions within the room, the city, the text, within systems of power and privilege. If we listen for it. The sonic foreground – as any foreground – entails a background. Downtown is considered safe and I am advised never to travel beyond it alone.

Listening is, as seeing, an acquired practice and follows lines of learned behavior. It is widely stated that the powerless cannot speak - that the unprivileged lack a voice. These frequent metaphors, when carelessly used seem to do little but to hide the fact that there might be voices and there might be speech. There is most certainly sound. Postcolonial theorist Nikita Dahwan, referring to academic and poet Abena Busia’s work, writes:

“…it is more crucial to scandalize the inability of the ’dominant’ to listen or their ’selective hearing’ and ’strategic deafness’.”1

Instantaneous hegemonic interpretation is part of all listening and determines what is heard, as well as how it is heard.

There is no silence. The peripheries of the world's peripheries reside outside of the margins – outside of the page’s illegibilities are Other illegibilities. There are the blanks within the text, the ones surrounding it and the ones unfamiliar with the very fabric of the page. These blanks rest on violent pasts and presents and are all but silent.

Sound runs alongside, runs into and fluctuates. Sonic textuals within the text and between the text and what surrounds it, merge. Sudden beginnings puncture. Endings leave empty spaces where the ringing of your own internal self might begin.

“Despite our desperate, eternal attempts to separate, contain, and mend, categories always leak.”2

As the soundscape of that
which is being edited out of
the city makes its way into
the text
so does the chatter of birds

Again and again the puncture of the needle
stitching mending ridges patches of land
in text and out of other formations
of Nature – Pilgrims – Nybyggare
Historical ships and shells used as medium of
exchange their high pitched rattle, the
thundering of the ocean
, inhabit these leaves
turning and the Sirens
the Sirens, the fan of the Beinecke reading room
if it is heard – the Siren, the capture – if it is heard
the turning of these 18th century pages, this
actual object – fact of passing, history coming
together falling apart at the seams, the turning
and when it stops
the ringing







1.Nikita Dahwan, Hegemonic Listening and Subversive Silences. In Destruction in the Performative, ed. Alice Lagaay and Michael A Lorber, Rodopi, Amsterdam/New York, 2012, p. 52  
2. Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Woman, Native, Other, Indiana University Press, 1989, p.94