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.