Silence and Random Sounds

OR SILENCE—SILENCE between people, strangers sitting beside each other on a train or at night or taking shelter under the same awning in a rainstorm. Two lives hidden behind faces, divided by fathoms of empty space, wrapped round in silence which one of them breaks then with maybe some word that in one way or another means Know me, Know me, clack-clack, and something that never was before comes into being as the other replies and something is made manifest—a lunar landing, a footprint on an alien star.

Or out of silence prayer happens: waking at night when the silence in your room is no deeper than the silence in yourself because for a moment all thought is stilled and you do not know where you are or possibly even who you are or what you are, and then out of this noplace and nobody that is you, out of this silence that your flesh shells, the prayer comes—O Thou—out of silence, addressed to silence, then returning to silence like the holy syllable OM where it is the silence encircling the sound that is itself most holy.

Or the other way round. All at once or little by little, the disguise of words is dropped, the conversation dwindles like a mist thinning out, and for the first time the shape of another becomes at least partially visible, and eyes meet, or without apology for once hands touch, and the angel who troubles the waters troubles the in-between air and a healing becomes possible. For the miracle at least of the moment the deaf hear and the blind, the blind, see.

You get married, a child is born or not born, in the middle of the night there is a knocking at the door, on the way home through the park you see a man feeding pigeons, all the tests come in negative and the doctor gives you back your life again: incident follows incident helter-skelter leading apparently nowhere, but then once in a while there is the suggestion of purpose, meaning, direction, the suggestion of plot, the suggestion that, however clumsily, your life is trying to tell you something, take you somewhere.

Or random sounds: the clock's tick-tock, voices outside the window, footsteps on the stair, a bird singing, and then just for a moment a hint of melody.

-Originally published in The Alphabet of Grace

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