Poem by Jane Yeh

A Short History of Silence

by Jane Yeh

Abigail and Mary 

(Photo of my gggrandmother, Abigail Smith and her sister Mary Wilson)

 

In our house, all the clocks are turned off and the mirrors
Don’t work. We sit like bread in a stay-fresh wrapper,
Keep ourselves to our selves. Sometimes the speeches
Are so beautiful it hurts. On the porch where we can’t be

Seen to smile, the honeysuckle meshes with silent
Weeds. We rock back and forth, back and forth in our long
Black dresses. Mosquitoes taste our blood and find it good.

Inside, candles are lit every night and keep going
Until they burn themselves down. We kiss our fingers
To our lips like Italians, promise we’ll never look back.
Whip-poor-will.

When the doorbell rings we don’t answer.
In winter, the fur grows long on the horses and the ice

Grows long on the eaves. We sleep in the same bed
Like good animals, braid our hair together, tailor
Our limbs to fit.

Conspiracy of wood

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Exact Moment

Have we been here before
In this exact moment,
With the light slanting at just this angle
In hushed iridescent patterns
Discernible only through
The infinite prisms of time?

Have these same sounds ricocheted through the light
Like muffled alarms
Creating endless echoes?

How many times has this
Exact moment
Replayed itself,
Only to dissolve
Like a ghost
Returning to the ether?

Epilogue

 

This life is a poem
Written in
Disappearing ink,
Characters fading
As quickly as
They can be set down.

Words and events jumbled,
Tumbled,
In a failure of
Alphabetic alchemy
Leaving
Hushed spells,
Husked shells–

Leaky vessels carrying
Meaning
As the body imperfectly
Carries the soul.

There’s no word made flesh here, though.
It’s just ashes to ashes
Bones to dust.
A reluctant relinquishing
Of what remains,
Encrypted.