Poem: A Foundation of Silence

A Foundation of Silence

This is the place where I learned silence.
The mill pond, back in the woods
beyond the fields. A mile back perhaps.
Perhaps more.
Surrounded by hundreds of acres of white pine,
filled with cypress, beavers, bass, and snakes.

There is a cabin at the edge of the point.
A one room log cabin.
My grandfather and father built it
the year I was born. A single room,
shed roof. Dirt floor.
A tiny pot-bellied stove in one corner.
Broad shelves made of cypress fold down
to make beds.

There is the silence of the living here.
Far in the distance, you hear beavers,
slapping their flat tails against the water in warning.
Fish jump. Wood duck flutter at your coming.
Here and there, a snake falls from limbs
into the black water, stained by hundreds of years
of pine needles. If you listen, you will hear.

But there is nothing of life as we know it here.
No roads or tractors or traffic.
No buzzers or beeps or hums.
It is where you hid as a teenager,
desperate to find who you were
In a world eager to tell you,
but not as eager to find out.

Hours. Days. Nights.
You ran away here once,
Slept on the narrow shelf beds.
Your grandfather brought you food
and waited for you to go back.
Which of course, you did,

having found enough silence for the first time,
enough to find yourself without the noise,
A changed lad. Not quite a man, but with the building blocks
of a man suddenly in place, a foundation
of silence.

About this poem

There is always a place or time where our foundations were built. Mine was built in silent places, like this mill pond on my grandfather’s farm.


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