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Silence While Walking

Writing has felt like searching more than saying lately; morning pages, like probing for a light-switch, instead of illuminating with the mind. So I’ve sided with silence more often: cupped the child’s mouth, barring the reflex to linguify what I find. Instead, I’ve stayed in the shadow of speech a little longer, repeating to myself that there’s truth and clarity here — there, in the unseen and unsaid. More truth maybe.

In this quiet I walk in the woods. I’m with a carpenter (He is a poet too). We’re talking about language, whether it’s quiet or loud. We decide it’s both. That in poems, language frames silence — “holds it without breaking it” — one of us says. Or maybe we think it. Framed like a portrait by wood.

A chipmunk scurries across a boulder, rustling a bed of dry pine needles.

A red snow-plant announces itself a bit further up the trail, eating up the earth’s nutrients like a parasite, with no purpose but to make us stop and wonder.

Silence for all of this.

Even for the difference between Firs and Pines. So we can practice our powers of discernment in quiet, a green-brown backdrop suddenly articulated by a wordless taxonomy.

Silence for the sugar-cones too, larger than both our feet. For the hikers who carry and drop them at random junctures when they need a free hand.

Silence for the result: a random scattering of seeds where no mother pines can be found.

Silence for the Mother Sugar Pines, named for the sweet sap that oozes around her wounds after a fire.

Silence for this fact.

For our own wounds that exude a protective sweetness.

For you.

Silence for the rainbow trout that swims where I stand, and how it made you believe I had a “gift for seeing.”

For how, silently, I felt the fish in my bloodstream, and that you were the one seeing me.

Silence for the hawks I spot, flying down country roads, as if the telephone wires ran between mine and their wild eyes.

For the times no one is next to me, and I learn to swallow the secret of seeing into myself, rather than rationing it among the outsiders.

Silence for me, who notices even before I do, making me feel faraway from where I am, and closer to where I’m not.

Silence for the soul.

For how it will settle and stay against the beating sun of speech.

Like white-caps on summits stay, late in July.

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