The Sound of Listening


Outside, a window without music
coming from it. & another enveloping
the old stone courtyard in cumin & wildly
regular prayers pilgrimaging oceans before
finding the right god’s ear. The one I was
promised as a child would forgive my brokenness
falls, brittle, in a mirror of autumn fronds.
A chipped church bell somewhere out there
rips evening open like a body succumbed
to tooth & claw, scalpel & grief; shame
is just another word for refusing to burn
down the palace or for remaining inside
while the light swallows everything
but the names for the dead we hoard.
Souvenirs, I think I mean. Reminders. The absence
of song, & equally the song. The sudden
architecture of a newborn’s laugh,
& equally a mother’s last breath
erupting like buckshot over a half-
remembered morning field. Or was it
midnight when last slowly bled into first?
Is this even my child, my mother, my shame?
Is it my window shouting boldly its silence
or is that my forehead pressed to an unrolled carpet
begging the earth for deeper roots? If you say
the world is listening, I promise to ask it. This time.
As the constellations within disassemble their myths into distant
light & distant star. Even if I have to close my eyes to see them.

John Sibley Williams