Quiet on the Set

Image: 'Cuando las calles á solas (When the streets are alone,' by Oiluj Samall Zeid

[Image: “Cuando las calles á solas (When the streets are alone),” by Oiluj Samall Zeid. (Found it on Flickr, and used here under a Creative Commons license — thank you!)]

From whiskey river:

Nobody speaks to me. People fall in love with me, and annoy me and distress me and flatter me and excite me and — and all that sort of thing. But no one speaks to me. I sometimes think that no one can.

(Edna St. Vincent Millay [source])


Mum Is The Word

The League of Quiet Persons meets
monthly. Its quarters are a cavernous
warehouse away from traffic. Its
business is not to discuss business.
Minutes are read silently and tacitly approved.
Members listen to rain argue with corrugated
iron, a furnace with itself. Glances
are learnéd. It is not so much refuge
from noise the members seek in such company
as implicit permission not to speak,
not to answer or to answer for,
not to pose, chat, persuade, or expound.

Podium and gavel have been banned,
indeed are viewed as weaponry.
A microphone? The horror.
Several Quiet Persons interviewed
had no comment. A recorded voice
at the main office murmured only, “You
have reached the League of Quiet
Persons. After the tone, listen.”

(Hans Ostrom [source])

Not from whiskey river:

Six Inches

One minute I’m meandering down
a country road on a magnificent fall day,
lost in thought, radio playing,
and the next minute I feel my wheels

on the loose gravel of the shoulder,
there’s a deafening bang and I’m
climbing out of what’s left of my car.
The cop who came to investigate

was pretty sure I’d been speeding
but settled for lecturing me about how lucky
I was to walk away from such a crash,
that I’d be dead if my car had hit the tree

just six inches further to the left.
Anyone could see that what he said was true,
but it also struck me as I stood there
watching his car flash red and blue

that it was equally true the accident
would not have happened at all
if a raging storm some sixty years ago
hadn’t blown an acorn six inches closer

to the road than where it would’ve landed
on a day as sunny and calm as the one
we were in. It was a point I thought deserved
serious exploration—though perhaps

not just then, I decided, with a hundred birds
singing their tiny hearts out overhead
and the sky raining down yellow leaves,
and definitely not with the cop.

(Jeff Coomer [source])


You can listen to silence, Reuven. I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own. It talks to me sometimes. I feel myself alive in it. It talks. And I can hear it…

You have to want to listen to it, and then you can hear it. It has a strange, beautiful texture. It doesn’t always talk. Sometimes—sometimes it cries, and you can hear the pain of the world in it. It hurts to listen to it then. But you have to.

(Chaim Potok [source])


Milo walked slowly down the long hallway and into the little room where the Soundkeeper sat listening intently to an enormous radio set, whose switches, dials, knobs, meters, and speaker covered one whole wall, and which at the moment was playing nothing.

“Isn’t that lovely?” she signed. “It’s my favorite program—fifteen minutes of silence—and after that there’s a half hour of quiet and then an interlude of lull. Why, did you know that there are almost as many kids of stillness as there are sounds? But, sadly enough, no one pays any attention to them these days.

Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.

(Norton Juster [source])


Lines of Force

The pleasure of walking a long time on the mountain
without seeing a human being, much less speaking to one.

And the pleasure of speaking when one is suddenly there.
The upgrade from wary to tolerant to convivial,
so unlike two brisk bodies on a busy street
for whom a sudden magnetic attraction
is a mistake, awkwardness, something to be sorry for.

But to loiter, however briefly, in a clearing
where two paths intersect in the matrix of chance.
To stop here speaking the few words that come to mind.
A greeting. Some earnest talk of weather.
A little history of the day.

To stand there then and say nothing.
To slowly look around past each other.
Notice the green tang pines exude in the heat
and the denser sweat of human effort.

To have nothing left to say
but not wanting just yet to move on.
The tension between you, a gossamer thread.
It trembles in the breeze, holding
the thin light it transmits.

To be held in that
line of force, however briefly,
as if it were all that mattered.

And then to move on.
With equal energy, with equal pleasure.

(Thomas Centolella [source])

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