Breaking Silence


We rise to break the silence, open up

a cogent pattern in a mindless mist

uncaring for the human heart it feeds;

a medium that holds both oxygen

and virus, gentle rain and hurricane,

hail of destruction, calm and balm.


The stars roar with subatomic plasma

explosions human ears will never hear;

solar winds don’t reach us in this shelter.

Silence ground, our voices figure.


First sounds: the sheering sheen of slapping waves

as mountains rose to pipe the silent gale

through basso canyon walls and waterfalls

the coloratura ring of reaching peaks

the tenor of unending newborn sands

finding one another in multitudes

of dunes, the alto laughter of settling

silt sifting down to leeward shade.


Then arose the reedy swells of slender

slips of cells fed on sunlight as they sliced

the silent breeze with life’s insistent force;

another then another, standing each

alone, extending their expressive genes

first in patches then in green expanses

that grew to thickets of life, ahum with

stubborn strength against wind that never

stops but that is mute without resistance.


Broken silence mends when we stop speaking.

It will not stay in pieces on the ground

but must be broken again and again.

We rise to break a silence that smothers

us with indifference; silence, not a thing

itself, but preexisting condition

that will continue without the action

of our words. We break it with our voices

snapping hand, the strike of drum, the slap

of skin on skin, with sweat awash, wind drawn

in with effort of our torsos and will;

a breath is drawn, then pressed from canyon

lungs between the narrow cataracts

gorge and larynx, red rapids of our tongues

through chalk-cliff teeth and lips like worms that writhe

alive to form the meanings of our voice.


What can we speak of if we do not see?

What do we see that can’t be spoken of?

Listen to the voices all around us

though muffled they may be through frightened masks—

masks that were there all along but unseen

eyes shut, both blind and sighted see alike

the mask of silence dims only our thoughts

masks that ease the edge, the cut of struggle

but cannot shut it down. These masks can help

our voices blend, attenuate their clash

and help us to forgive our human faults.

Masked, our voice intones a common accent

a shared shape to our personal keening

enfolds our angry shouts, and blends our grief.


Yet still I see your eyes. Uniquely yours,

they look to me to be the eyes of all;

your song, the voice of all, still singular

but dampened, intimate, reflective. Though

laughter and weeping may sound the same

through generations across seething seas

and silent land, this shape of air, these words

have not been heard, nor even thought, since ere

the sky first moved across the face of Earth.