The Silence of the World

I can imagine the silence when the world
will have stilled itself—no more poems tossed
off the tongue, no more screams
of raven lugging entrails of porcupine,
no more tales of the Navajo, or Louisiana black man,
or old-time Vermonter,
no more breathing in the ear of last lover,
no more angelic beings left to be kissed
into the claustrophobia of flesh,
no more temples giving light
from open doors into bitter winter nights, no more
curious weasel who leaves
her black ring frozen in the air,
no more tooth that gnaws through gum and bones into
the cathedral of the mouth.
No more splat when singer spits
mouthwash into the washbasin after the concert,
no more “Quit yer bawlin!”
from punk principal to slob schoolboy
when sore mother hauls
small boy into classroom by sore ear.
No more young woman in large hat in profile
in afternoon light saying, “So what, darling?
I don’t hate you. I love you. So what?”
No more flutesman trudging through snow
on 125th Street on the last Sunday morning of his jeopardy.
No more husband saying, “Snack bar’s the other way.”
No more wife replying, “You aren’t going to eat again, are you?”
No more husband replying, “I don’t want to eat,
I was just telling you where the snack bar is.”
No more wife replying, “For Chrissake! I know where it is.”
No more caesura or else everything one endless caesura,
no more feminine rhyme such as “lattice” and “thereat is,”
no more parallelismus membrorum panting in one ear,
no more Neruda’s slowly deepening voice saying,
“Federico, te acuerdas, debajo de la tierra . . .”
From across the valley the thud of an axe
arrives later than its strike
and the call of goodbye slowly separates itself
little by little from the vocal chords of everything. – Galway Kinnell

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