Silence

There was a grandee,
a man with a totem head,
who tried to draw silence
from a well.

He launched buckets by the dozen
into the fathoms
of stultified air,

but they always returned
with ribald jingles
of water, some of it fresh,
some of it brackish,
some of it thin and fiddling.

Once he pulled up
sharp. He listened.
He'd drawn up a petrified echo,
which wriggled
and sighed like a kettle.

He might as well have drawn
silence from life,
or blood from a whetstone.
He had a spectacular
lack of success.

A wise woman
with eyes like a furnace
and hips like millwheels
and thighs like lilac
spun him a far better yarn.

He tried,
the man with the dust of destiny
thick in his hair

to grow silence
in the fields and rivers and trees
of his infinite kingdom.

He marked and measured,
and scratched at barren ground
with silver hoes
till the red sweat fell from his eyes.
His hands were like thistle,
his backbone like bark.

The sun sharpened its bristles
on every inch of his sky.

The months flew past,
moons turned cartwheels
in the night,
and the junketing stars
dwindled into pinheads.

The first sprig of silence
appeared in a dream,
a tenterhook
of total quiet.

The man with a hundred bonanzas
and a headdress of peacock feathers
and a coat on which
hot cadenzas had scribbled their rhythm
scoured the widths of his land.

He found it in a shadow
as faint as the taste of childhood.

Soon there were acres,
limitless gardens and orchards
and plots and parks
possessed by silence.

Did he grow rich? Did he
fill fat ledgers
with a census of calm?
On the contrary.

He lay with his head on fire
in a grove of the silence
he'd grown
and he called it love
with a kiss that was more like a shiver
than a whisper is like a sound.

From Looks Familiar