12 Heart-Breaking Sounds That Will Remain When There Is No Heart to Break for Them

Paul Scott’s Cumbrian Blue(s), Bombs Over Baghdad, 2003, 2007, 2011. Broken (handmade) platter with inglaze decal collage, 10 x 13.25 inches. Photo: Frode Larsen

The beauty of things was born before eyes and sufficient to
itself; the / heart-breaking beauty / Will remain when there
is no heart to break for it.

Robinson Jeffers, “Credo”

In the ruined harbor, the moan of the rusting whistle
buoy, its hydraulic cylinders transforming the lift of a
wave into a cry in the fog.

Rain filling the fossil footprint in mudstone of a boy running
on the beach. Hard rain, fortissimo.

Shards of colored glass tinkling down the marble steps,
having fallen from a soaring arch, past the startled face
of a stone saint holding a bird in his hand.

Wind whistling under a slab of bark in a forest of sycamores
grown strong on the desiccating backs of cedars. It’s a sound that might once have been mistaken for the silver flute of a varied thrush.

A steady roar, as fire flares off methane leaking from an abandoned well, the dead bodies of ancient dragonflies transmogrified into fury.

Boulders clattering down a cliff.

The grunt and swoon of sex. Fumbling to adapt to souring,
steaming niches and fire-charred plains, beings will couple two sets of genes, growing new foresight or songs — to
be tested by merciless time.

The arpeggio of a creek falling through red rocks. It once
was the canyon wren who sang this song, but he learned
it first from the desert freshet and this is what shall remain.

The sizzle of surf returning to the sea. Waves will still
zipper the length of the beach and hiss in their hurry to
slink back home.


A leggy magnolia falling in the forest, the long sigh and
final thud. A falling tree makes a sound even when there
is no person there to hear it fall; the whole world shivers, and the dent in the air travels around the reeling globe.

The mumbled prayer of a thunderstorm, approaching.

The clap and crackle of a prairie fire, a sound like a round
of applause.

Read more Enumerations. 
Your gift or subscription continues to make Orion ad-free.

Kathleen Dean Moore is an Oregon author and activist. Her newest work is a music/spoken-word performance with pianist Rachelle McCabe about the moral urgency of the global extinction crisis.