THE SILENCE 

By Anataban Poet

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,

And the silence of the city when it pauses,

And the silence of a man and a maid,

And the silence of the sick

When their eyes roam about the room.

And I ask: For the depths,

Of what use is language?

A beast of the field moans a few times

When death takes its young.

And we are voiceless in the presence of realities —

We cannot speak.

A curious boy asks an old soldier

Sitting in front of Gudele market 

“How did you lose your leg?”

And the old soldier is struck with silence,

Or his mind flies away

Because he cannot concentrate it on the Arab war

It comes back jocosely

And he says, “A liony bit it off.”

And the boy wonders, while the old soldier

Dumbly, feebly lives over

The flashes of guns, the thunder of cannon,

The shrieks of the slain,

And himself lying on the ground,

And the hospital surgeons, the knives,

And the long days in bed.

But if he could describe it all

He would be an artist.

But if he were an artist there would be deeper wounds

Which he could not describe.

There is the silence of a great hatred,

And the silence of a great love,

And the silence of an embittered friendship.

There is the silence of a spiritual crisis,

Through which your soul, exquisitely tortured,

Comes with visions not to be uttered

Into a realm of higher life.

There is the silence of defeat.

There is the silence of those unjustly punished;

And the silence of the dying whose hand

Suddenly grips yours.

There is the silence between father and son,

When the father cannot explain his life,

Even though he be misunderstood for it.

There is the silence that comes between husband and wife.

There is the silence of those who have failed;

And the vast silence that covers

Broken nations and vanquished leaders.

There is the silence of Dr John 

Thinking of the poverty of his people 

And the silence of Kiir

After after the killings of refugees in Sudan 

And the silence of our preacher men

Saying amid the flames, “Blessed Jesus” —

Revealing in two words all sorrows, all hope.

And there is the silence of age,

Too full of wisdom for the tongue to utter it

In words intelligible to those who have not lived

The great range of life.

And there is the silence of the dead.

If we who are in life cannot speak

Of profound experiences,

Why do you marvel that the dead

Do not tell you of death?

Their silence shall be interpreted

As we approach them.

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