Sandi Stromberg, a well-known and much-loved Houston-based poet, often generously shares her work with Sappho’s Torque in April. Today I’m featuring her poem “Silence as Matter” in part because over the last year I’ve come to both appreciate and be wary of silence.
Sometimes it bothers me. It reminds me of a time before I had children, when I did not yet understand the value of quiet or quietude. Now when my house — a house which shelters teenagers — is silent, I feel sometimes a slight disconnection, an understanding that they are gaining independence from me in some ways. I know this is appropriate, but within all of this is also a recognition that at some point my children will grow up and leave home, and a premonition that I will probably go back to finding the quiet unsettling or empty once again.
And sometimes I crave the quiet, which can and often is soothing. I like the calm.
But silence, after all, is more than quietness. It has its own weight, its own gravity. Its own heaviness and drama.
I hope you will enjoy Sandi’s poem as much as I do.
Silence as Matter
reflections on John Cage’s musical composition
“Four minutes, thirty-three seconds” doesn’t start
until the pianist places
a watch he can watch
two hands above the keyboard
the audience waiting, waiting
the silence, elongated
three movements with no movement
except the clock’s hands
the audience coughs, shifts, throats
in utter emptiness,
anything can now take place
but do I believe him for me, a bare room
is an empty room
a barren mind a curse
sometimes I awaken to a vacuum
a sweeping hollowness
silence gaping like an abyss
no meaning to be found
is he saying this is how a poem might happen
soundless music in the poet’s mind
contemplation of time and space
emptied then filled
could I have such faith
to have confidence in white space
to load silence
Sandi Stromberg has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize as well as for a 2020 Best of the Net. Her poetry currently appears or is upcoming in The Ocotillo Review, San Pedro River Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse, Still the Waves Beat, Texas Poetry Calendar 2021, Purifying Wind, Snapdragon, and Brabant Cultureel (The Netherlands). As the editor of two poetry anthologies, she has been honored to feature the work of other poets.