by Alberto Rios

No word rhymes with silence, or tries to. 
No word wants to visit that furtive backyard garden. 

Silence is the word that will not be spoken–
After all, who can pronounce it? Once spoken,

We will not hear it. It is the story not told, 
The memory carefully unspoken in this house, 

Your house. Silence is the place underneath language 
An unto-itself, an army 

Stronger than words, more patient, 
Bigger than the dictionary. 

Its weapons are familiar, 
Painful, without antidote and giving of no respite. 

Quiet tells us it is coming, and so, too, 
Quiet is tolerated, left to be, undisturbed at its work, 

Silence’s grim reaper, allowed only to make deliveries,
To fill the bins, to cut the grass, eat if it needs to, 

Then expected to leave, quickly, cleanly, 
No trace afterward, no errant grass cuttings, 

No black from the bottom of its shoes on the floor. 
Good bye, we say, and in saying 

Mispronounce its name, but happy not to know,
Ready not to ask. Good-bye, we say, and mean it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alberto Rios‘s ten collections of poetry include The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, a finalist for the National Book Award. His most recent book is The Dangerous Shirt, preceded by The Theater of Night, which received the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. Published in the New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and other journals, he has also written three short story collections and a memoir, Capirotada, about growing up on the Mexican border. Regents Professor and the Katharine C. Turner Chair in English, Rios has taught at Arizona State University for over 29 years.

PHOTO: Monet’s Garden, Giverny, France.