Seventeen weeks in the womb, and now your ears are open, ready to receive, exquisitely developed. You live in a waterworld, immersed in vibration and sound: the unceasing whoosh of blood through the uterine artery, your mother’s heart and breath, the surprising syncopation of your own glorious heartbeat. You know the exaltation and pitch of voice: anger, fear, love, sorrow. Language to you is a polyphonic murmuration: when your father and mother walk through the park in early morning, you hear the sad, sweet burblings of doves, the roar of a train, the whoops of children.

You care nothing for sense and signification: everything you love is music.

Twenty years later you think you want to be a writer and teachers tell you it’s meaning that matters, the perfect words, the perfect order, and yes, of course it’s true, but as you lie in bed listening to your heart and breath, besieged by the songs of tree frogs and crickets, lulled by a rush of cars so far away they could be a river, you realize that what you want to write is a fugue, a sonata, a symphony.

We speak not only mind to mind, but body to body. Until each sentence sings, until your paragraphs pulse and reverberate, your beautiful thoughts are incomplete, your holy work unfinished.

I read each sentence aloud — twenty, thirty, a hundred times — seeking not only sense, but tone and timbre and rhythm, hoping that through the fusion of meaning and music my words can touch anyone, fetus or mother.

Originally published in Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Fiction, edited by Trevor Dodge and Lance Olsen. Bowie, MD: Guide Dog Books, 2012: 171–172.

Melanie Rae Thon is the author of Silence & Song (2015) and The Voice of the River (2011) from FC2.