Filling SIlence

Many of the pieces included in this issue mention silence—a lack of conversation—or are centered around a difficult conversation. There is a great attention to sound in this grouping of poetry and prose. These works begin to address the importance of sounds, especially how words can be used or withheld either to beautify the world or to make it ugly.

Enrica Gabriele-Smith brilliantly ends her poem “A Lesson in Composure” with onomatopoeia: “a soggy / thud.” In Wanda Deglane’s “Conversation with My Father,” the poem’s speaker expresses how her father’s absence has affected her; she begins, “I am filling a father-shaped void with / the sound of your long-awaited silence.” I love the idea of silence holding a sound of its own; I imagine an ear-splitting silence, a thunderous silence. In Katie Simpson’s creative nonfiction piece, the final line resonates: “In this world silence is an answer, but I’ve never found an ending there.” 

Clair Dunlap’s poem “Kalaloch, July 2012” ends with an uncomfortable and even violent silence that contrasts the poem’s overall calm tone: “we climb back and zip ourselves into bed. / sink into the silence that runs each twig snap from the woods / down your back like a fingernail.” Similarly, there is an urgency in the work, “Flannel for Hands” by poet shy watson, in which she breaks a seeming silence: “its december / basically / im in love with you.” The speaker is reluctant to give herself away completely, as is suggested by “basically,” but she feels compelled to communicate her adoration for her lover.

In Lindsey Warren’s poem, “Full Cold Moon (For Jack),” she writes of “the silence that hums / behind your soul, and I / am haunted by what / I will not admit I / love.” When do we tell a person that we love them? How heavy is this word, “love”? If we are not spreading a loving sentiment through our words, is silence more honest and valuable? Or is ‘ghosting’ its own form of violence, as Simpson’s last line may suggest? Will our silences haunt us, like Warren’s lines lead us to believe?

Issue 15’s pieces are very unique in style, theme, and tone, and yet they appear to be conversing with one another. We have Dujie Tahat’s speaker in the poem “father, stretch my hands” yelling for his father to “SHUT UP” so that he can play a role in the conversation. In “Impeachment Day: Planning the Party,” Jennifer Martelli writes, “The train is like a man because it’s shrill.” This line calls to me because society often associates the word “shrill” with the feminine voice rather than with the voice of a “man.” This distinction indicates how our experiences cause us to interpret sounds differently—a certain sound could trigger one person while the same sound could bring another listener great joy.

Poets Kristin Garth and C. Aloysius Mariotti both allude to child abuse in their pieces, and they each portray sound in subtle ways. Garth writes, “He told you a story to save your life” and this reads as disturbing in context; such storytelling becomes more about what is not being said as a child’s innocence is taken. Mariotti uses capital letters in “Impeachment Day” to refer to a secret that disturbs the reader; a secret implies an absence of sound (I picture a person with one finger over their lips—hush). He writes later in the poem, “a boy shouldn’t lose his virginity at ten years old while immured in devastating fear on rough / orange carpet, his innocence impeached and torn raw.”

The role of writers is often to tell our truths, in hopes that others will find solace in our words. I find myself extremely thankful for these writers of Issue 15 because they are out here using language to express authentic experiences and to share honest emotions through image or story. I am proud of everyone who is brave enough to say a true thing. You are strong enough to break the silence and assert yourself as someone worth hearing.

Your voice matters.