the quiet

“…you become the sound.” ~Luisa Igloria, “Liminal”

I strip the bed, put on the summer blanket and quilt; the overwrought, anxious-to-please smell of household cleaner still rises from the corners. The sink is empty and the drying rack full, the desks cleared, the herbs watered. It is night and I am alone, pictures gazing down or averting faces from this solitary industry. How quiet a pair of rooms becomes in the puddling afternoon, how much quieter following night’s seeping tide when houses curl upon themselves like mollusks. I hold this two-bedroom-plus-kitchen-and-bath to my ear and hear the rushing of my blood, rushing like the traffic on Massachusetts Avenue, rushing like thoughts in the estuaries of minutes. I could do laundry all night or scrub the bathtub or unpack the last boxes, but nothing can hold back the salty, pungent fingerlets of quiet. You will press me against the sheets, flutter the curtains, give me back dreams speaking in voices made strange by distance. I will wake in the morning–will my breath remember me, will my spirit be returned back from the rooms’ shell, caverns echoing and empty? Will I remember the outbound journey on the ruffled waters, the sly unmooring of self the quiet night accomplished? Or will I forget, as I sometimes want to, and become something simple and untinged by loss, or loneliness, or the ordinary greatness required to live on the shores of this unborn and unrelenting sea?

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Night walking

Past the house with loud voices and laughter
falling from open windows;

past the old Winchester rifle factory, shattered panes
and iron gates, their long, decaying sway held fast

in the arms of rusting chains and steady locks.
Past the greenhouse, always lit, and the raccoons

who pause in apprehension from their garden digging
as I pass

under the striated blue loam of evening
and the loess of stars

blown in slow migration across our fading summer;
past the blinkered apartments, the man on a cell phone

speaking a different language in the parking lot,
along Mansfield to Division Street and beyond

to where someone blows her nose like a sudden shout,
hidden on a back porch,

to where the street ends in a T and I stop to sit
on someone else’s stairs and watch a lone mailman

making deliveries long after hours, and to return
his greeting.

And I sit with an acrid burn in my throat,
smoke of memory, taste of longing

for a street on which every face is a face I know and every hand
beckons me in; a fiction

but one so nearly brought to narrate the days
in other places, other paths

that sometimes the night feels like a loss,
and sometimes a blessing

that a city so unknowing grants this space
to recall such things unhindered, and then begin

the walk back, the empty house;
these words, a filament of breath exhaled

to reach beyond the bright, dark oceans
to where another life was lived.