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The Rest of Silence

ISSUE:  Summer 2010

In the dream of reference, a word is epithalamion to what it signifies.
But what word signifies silence? And what does the word for silence signify?
And who’s dreaming this dream anyway? Are we hearing God, or the serpent?

The rest is silence, says Hamlet. But then, in the 1623 Folio, he moans O, o, o, o.
Cage’s 4:33 is unbearably noisy. Imagine how Beethoven’s earphone felt,
Straining to hurl the world’s glorious sounds at a god who couldn’t hear.

Press the piano key gently and there’s a moment before the hammer drops
That captures the quiet Vermeer sought in every half-lit interior,
As if the absence of sound were indeed the way to evoke the absence of sound.

Those Japanese haiku-poets, they threaten to swallow us up with silence.
But that wasn’t what they wanted, was it? After all, Issa laughs in his saddest poems,
Juggling potatoes for a dirty orphan or chattering to a hungry sparrow at his feet.

What is the sound inside the seed before the rain summons the first roots?
What is the rhythm of dust falling on a shelf of books? On an empty shelf?
Did the master walk kinhin or sweep his floor when he composed the clapping koan?

I could talk silence to death, but I’d be a fool to do so. Lear’s fool
Had the sense to disappear from the stable when the play stopped being funny.
Let’s sit here a while and listen to each other listening to each other.


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