In Silence

How quiet the anguish of surviving now,
gentle murmuring of the young living only a shade
above the silence they grieve, a ticking and a sighing
of bereaved consonants and vowels, lonely

on television only a few feet from my ears. I can’t hear
what any words are that might break this quiet
into the treacherous meanings of language.
Can they hear themselves, and does it matter?

The president stares into his twitter machine,
waiting for a chance to comfort, himself perhaps,
to be a star if not a king. He recommends arming
teachers—add straw to the murderous pyre.)

I hear my grandfather’s voice again, whose sounds
I haven’t heard for half a century, some of it still lonely.
“Hold your mouth right,” he jokes again, his voice . . .
sounds I still long for in eternities like this.

His words meant nothing, almost, but the sounds
still say without saying, “I’m here for you.
I always will be.” I would share the meaning
with these young people, broken-hearted, comforting

one another, and us. But I’ll shut up, lest the words
interfere with care. Today, this hour, words are only
noise—I a witness, all I can be, in gratuitous verse.
They whisper to one another. Some touch lightly,

necessarily, say to each other in sounds before
and beyond the bounds of attention, “I’m here for you.
I always will be.” Sometimes, we cannot help it,
we hold our mouths right, and we hold together.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.