The Light of Silence
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. – Wallace Stevens
At winter’s solstice, will I, too, grow silent?
In life’s last season, when answers rarely yield,
are questions what remain as filament?
Do old men in ignored exile live somnolent
with a bleeding censorious tongue that
by winter’s solstice is groaned into silence?
Does Joyce’s motto: “silence, exile, cunning”,
gallow the young mind within (the last vestige of spring),
condemned forever to questions as filament?
Will taciturnity prefigure eternity?
Middle age, burnt by sunlit scorn, withers toward
winter’s solstice. Will I, too, tend toward silence?
Interposed autumn: dominant returns recessive.
When foliage, once a sinewy strength, falls
into questions, will these remainders be filament?
Neruda says we all arrive at silence
by different streets, by unequal languages.
Past winter’s solstice, I, too, will fall silent,
buried questions -my remains- my filament.
This poem is a villanelle. A villanelle is a fixed form with purposed repetition and calculated refrain. “Its repeated lines, the circularity of its stanzas, become, as the reader listens, a repudiation of forward motion, of temporality and therefore, finally, of dissolution. Each stanza of a villanelle, with its refrain, becomes a series of retrievals”. – The Making of a Poem, Mark Strand and Eavan Boland