Silence, with Two Texts
by Sharon Olds

When we lived together, the silence in the home
was denser than the silence would be
after he left. Before, the silence
had been like a large commotion of industry
at a distance, like the downroar of mining. When he went,
I studied my once-husband’s silence like an almost
holy thing, the call of a newborn born
mute. Text: “Though its presence is detected
by the absence of what it negates, silence
possesses a power which presages fear
for those in its midst. Unseen, unheard,
unfathomable, silence dis-
concerts because it conceals.” Text:
“The waters compassed me about, even to
the soul: the depth closed me round
about, the weeds were wrapped about
my head.” I lived alongside him, in his hush
and reserve, sometimes I teased him, calling his
abstracted mask his Alligator Look,
seeking how to love him as
he was, under the law that he could not
speak—and when I shrieked against the law
he shrinked down into its absolute,
he rose from its departure gate.
And he seemed almost like a hero, to me,
living, as I was, under the law
that I could not see the one I loved
but only consort with him as a being
fixed as an element, almost
ideal, no envy or meanness. In the last
weeks, by day we moved through the tearing
apart, along its length, of the union,
and by night silence lay down with blindness,
and sang, and saw.

—from Stag’s Leap

Leave a Reply