Where I Write #27: Now In Silence, Mute






Now in silence, mute, a place still quiet

within reason, ear-protected, I hear

the flow and pump of blood. My loud

and your soft heart beat out as dance

stun and shush us where equipoise


and noise don’t mix. Unsteadying, a diet

of uninvited cell phone monologues, big

overseer helicopters, TV screech and

media preachments, ambulance, paramedic

rescue shrieks, the way too-trafficked


hum and squall and scream of barriers

that mask the sound of handcuff clicks.

Anointing to me, annoying to some, silence –

soundtrack to our native zone – serenades.

As every trembling star and particle feeds


on space, so every song and utterance

leans against silence: a resource so

unheard of, we can’t help but kill it. Dead.

The silence of a smug, unthinking nation

— that’s something else again. Citizen


as pathogen. I write through those ears,

too, from silence breathed as nourishment

that charges and changes. Consider the kiss

in which we find and switch each other on

— the silence I write from recharges this.

Former CA Poet Laureate Al Young was born May 31, 1939 in Ocean Springs, Mississippi near Biloxi—grew up in the rural South and in urban, industrial Detroit. His honors include Wallace Stegner, Guggenheim, Fulbright, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, the PEN-Library of Congress Award for Short Fiction, the PEN-USA Award for Non-Fiction, two American Book Awards, two Pushcart Prizes, two New York Times Notable Book of the year citations, an Arts Council Silicon Valley Fellowship, the Stephen Henderson Achievement Award for Poetry, Radio Pacifica's KPFA Peace Prize, the Glenna Luschei Distinguished Poetry Fellowship, and the Richard Wright Award for Excellence in Literature. At its May 2009 commencement, Whittier College conferred on him its highest honor: the Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Young's many books include novels, collections of poetry, essays, memoirs and anthologies. His work has appeared in Paris Review, Ploughshares, Essence, the New York Times, Chicago Review, Seattle Review, Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, Chelsea, Rolling Stone, Gathering of the Tribes, the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and the Oxford Anthology of African American Literature. More from this author →