Oregon
Literary
Review
Vol. 3, No. 2

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Robert Peake
THE SILENCE TEACHER


Seeing friends for the first time after his death

tested the silence a room could hold, the rest

was a kindness like holding our breath.

 

My wife's oldest friend offers her best

brave smile, tells us about the first time

her daughter, in new hearing aids, passed a nest.

 

Pitched as high as a tin wind chime,

in a sphere beyond the rumble of speech

she only knew "tweet" from what mother had mimed.

 

But birds' hunger songs seemed as far from reach

as the angels Blake saw perched in a tree,

and sweeter than any science her mother could teach.

 

Quick lips make it easy to misread a speaker,

and once at a party, based on what she had seen,

the girl introduced her mother as a "silence teacher."

 

Grief's small hands cupped before me,

reliving the news of our infant son's tests,

his brain as quiet as her soundless sea,

 

and as still as winter in a robin's nest,

I did not say: I was the one who held him last

and heard the ticking heart stop in his chest

 

or what that silence taught, and how it pressed.