The Dub Artist

by Penny Boxall

I’ve been learning about dub-engineers
and the tricks they play: marrying up
their own footsteps to the character’s gait;
slamming the studio door at just the right moment;
rustling leaves in synchronicity with the screen. They replace
those little things lost beneath dialogue or
tense music or laughter. Some things don’t sound
like themselves, and a substitute is drafted in.
For example: the guillotine’s ripe squandering
is denoted on soundtracks by lopping
an axe through a cabbage.

                This morning, in weird February sun, I watch
                the black teardrop of a waterboatman sculling
                under a pond’s thin surface. A donkey down-valley
                is braying, and suddenly these two things slot into place:
                the pull of the beetle’s oars; the rusty-hinge scrape
                of the bray. As though the waterboatman was making
                that sound of its own accord.

                                And lately I’ve been saying the sort
                                of things I say: so that no one
                                would guess – unless they knew
                                all the tricks – that all that noise
                                wasn’t really me.