Daniel David Sapp
Though my mother is long dead, my sister estranged,
I cannot account for the specter. After over forty years,
the image, the memory returns to me lately, haunting
my afternoon routine, all its edges garishly distinct.
The turn began at the end of summer, nineteen-seventy-
two or three, the last tubing and camping trip with
the Buskirk and Weaver kids, The Caves at Millwood,
along the muddy Kokosing River.
After one too many days of fun, fun, fun, of hotdogs
and marshmallows, hair and tee shirts reeking of smoke,
sticky nights in rank sleeping bags, no showers,
no television, the mighty, sickening aroma of latrines,
sunburned, mosquito and nettle bitten, all parental
wisdom and diplomacy abandoned, we packed for home.
Mom drove the big, red Galaxy 500 with searing black
vinyl. My sister raged in the backseat, demanding
to ride the twenty minutes with Dad in his van, her
preference. After all, she was Daddy’s Little Girl.
She flung open the door and fell out, hanging onto
the latch, dragged along in loose gravel, nearly run over,
a five-year-old action movie star. I screamed. Mom
braked. Somehow, my sister survived.
Here was the hinge of everything afterward, the likely
advent of anxious days: at that moment I witnessed
a turn. Not a turn in my mother, she was the constant.
A turn in me, my comprehension was the pivot.
My horror was my mother’s expression: distant,
indifferent to her daughter’s near miss, my terror.
Within a year, Mom in the psych ward behind heavy,
clicking and buzzing doors, we peered at her through
thick glass, Dad stunned, my sister sobbing, my mother
somewhere distant. I wasn’t surprised.
I will happily remain silent, lips sutured, sealing ancient,
festered wounds (though hapless impulses tug at stitches),
my tongue a giddy atrophy, old car in its garage. I’ll not
wag or lash it anytime soon.
I know this silence, a wide horizon, an ocean, a silence
nearly as deep as magma sputtering beneath
the Laurentian Abyss. Awed by sublime, I only teeter
at its precipice, a wanderer in a Romantic’s painting.
I search my shelves for adequate locutions, attic, cellar,
spare room, to fit rather than buy a new articulation.
But my attempts remain clumsy, lumbering obstacles
so long as obsession hinders my intent (My mind
a fence row, nettles, burs and briar strangled in barbed wire.
There. There now.)
Does silence abide the absurd or pass unencumbered,
whistling through my ribs, wind through an abandoned
house? As the Buddha, a monk, I shall loosen my grip
on petty clamor, what’s futile, samatha, tranquility,
my singular desire.
This silence is (and I shall listen without interruption)
a breeze whispering through pines just outside
my window; the lulling murmur of phoebes hopping
and pecking across the yard;
the trillium pushing noisily though mayapples and loam;
with the morning sun, apple blossoms opening one by one.
I shall regard each arrival, each pink bud,
each white explosion.
This silence is (Though much too sentimental, I’ll try again.)
that warm afternoon, lolling in bed, when there’s nothing else,
when I apprehend, galvanic skin to skin, lip to breast,
I love my lover, when words are ludicrous.