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The Vast and Beautiful Sound of Silence

November 25th, 2011

 

In the days when I’d visit my dear friend Rebecca, I remembered silence. Those afternoons of unrelenting nothing. Of near to zero noise and conversation and TV buzz. So many days, a million, we’d sit cross-legged from each other, she in her rocking chair, I in a vintage gold velvet-covered, straight-back number, and just melt into air. In complete repose, Rebecca would cross her hands over her chest of many colors — how she loved color — while I’d struggle for something to say to bridge the vast resounding quiet. There was this teeny smile that’d play over Rebecca’s lips because she knew how I roiled against the not talking and filling the gaps with small talk, but as always, she knew me well enough to know I could learn a lesson.

 

My eyes darted and skimmed and eventually settled because if someone doesn’t want to talk, no amount of your nervousness is going to make her. I smelled the musky dried lavender she’d collected a year earlier and placed in one of her small glass containers, probably a jelly jar; and I heard the calla lilies outside her window stroke each other’s silk, and there was a clock ticking. Soon enough, I stopped hearing it. But there were pictures — so many! — that she painted with an impossibly steady hand for 92 years old, and scriptures, and newsboy caps on boys who’d died in 1912.

 

And I absorbed them all into my ether until I’m quite unseparate from those melting minutes days.

 

We didn’t stay that way too long because Rebecca took pity and pulled out something she wrote or I wrote and asked me to read. All this naked nearness — without silly sounds to plug the ticking clock — let me hear who I was and what I wanted and who I was, to me, the most important part because we do forget.

 

There’d be these simple, so complicatedly simple sentences she’d give me, which against the billowing silence grew round and profound and distilled the deepest confusion of the soul into its smallest part — you know who you are, you know who you are, you know who you are.

 

She knew who I was.

 

She made it so I would know too.

 

Now there’s noise, most which I make myself. Taking the time to take time is lost like feathers to the wind. I hear, I say, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” and it makes me tired and scattered. I’ve forgotten to look inside. There’s too much outside.

 

But I’m quite unseparate from those melting minutes days.

 

Because there is always the silence.

 

It calls like November, like crossed hands on a chest, an empty chair, dried flowers breaking when you don’t notice, when you’re asleep even while awake; it cries, it keens, it pulls at you.

 

It knows who you are.

 

And if you’re lucky you find the person, you even, who listens until the noise outside fails to scare you into who you are not. Any more.

 

On November 25th, 2011, Sugar Jones said:

This is why I love going to the beach. To turn off the sounds that I voluntarily submerge myself in every day. To hear nothing but the ocean itself. I still hear voices and cars and birds and other noises in the air… but they are distant when I’m watching the waves break on the shore. I could walk in my neighborhood, but the peace that comes from being at the beach is worth going a little bit out of the way.

On November 26th, 2011, Holly said:

Thank you for another beautiful piece from the poet in residence.

I love your work. Have you ever considered an anthology on Kindle? Knowing you, though, I would think you would prefer the paper and ink variety (createspace from Amazon.com).

Big hugs!

Holly

On November 26th, 2011, tinsenpup said:

You just get better and better at expressing the inexpressible. I think she’d be proud.

On November 26th, 2011, April said:

I once had a friend who was this person for me. The person who I could sit with in silence and it was perfectly okay. I could just be me, simply me. He had a way of bringing out the real me, the honest, stripped down version of what others saw. Even though he died two years ago, I consider myself lucky to have had his friendship and this experience in my life. Some people never that get that opportunity.

Great post. Thank you!

On November 27th, 2011, Cactus Petunia said:

Beautiful. Silence is golden.

On November 28th, 2011, julie gardner said:

I too roil against the not talking. I fill the gaps with small talk.

But this took my breath away. Enough to shut me up for a while.

And then some.

On November 28th, 2011, The Sweetest said:

Beautiful piece. I love to sit in silence with people I love and feel close to. But I have the hardest time not talking with others.

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