Poem-A-Day 2021, Day 6: Sandi Stromberg

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

            are cleared

                        time passes

in utter emptiness,

anything can now take place

Cage says

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.

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