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 plasmic

explosions human ears will never know;

solar winds make no sound we can hear.

Silence is the ground, our voices figure.


First sounds: the sheering sheen of slapping waves

as mountains rose to pipe the quiet 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 into the 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 silent 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 smoothers

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,

(viruses and leaders notwithstanding)

the snapping hand, the strike of drum, the slap

of skin on skin, wet with sweat, wind taken

in with effort of our torsos and will;

a breath is drawn, then pressed from the canyons

of our lungs between narrow cataracts

of gorge and larynx, valleys of our tongues

through dover teeth and lips like worms that writhe,

alive to form the meaning 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 mutes only our thoughts—

masks that ease the edge and cut of struggle

but cannot shut it down. Our masks will 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

its 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.