This is a poem I wrote about what silence is. This was my way of contributing to poetry as art in a tribute to John Cage, called Silent Series, story number fifty-six.
Silence is simply the beat between the words. Drum roll. beat, cymbals.
Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!
I have written other poetry, often in small reading circles. Bur one night I decided to read this poem in a small café on Commercialized Drive, where it was cool to be hip and hot enough that evening to melt plastic. I opened a window to let the air out.
A poetry lady asked me if I was a poet. I said I’d be in the wrong place if I wasn’t. Anyway, her calling me a poet sounded too much like a job.
This night, the poets mostly read about people who lived under bridges. I doubted if any of them ever had themselves and I suspect they drove there in nice cars.
In the middle of the reading some anti-war people came into the restaurant and took over the room. They said there was a scheduling problem. There was some friction: Poets versus anti-war types. After a lot of talk, both sides pulled back from the brink. The poets would lend the microphone and amplifier to the anti-war guys. The anti-war people said: “Okay, we’ll let you read for another half-hour, but you have to read anti-war poetry.” The poetry lady agreed to donate some money to the anti-war cause, while the anti-war people agreed to be quiet during the reading. The poets even bought the anti-war people beer and bought some anti-war t-shirts for sale. The anti-war people shared the food they brought to the rally. The moment was calm, but robbed of its irony.
I was up to read next. The poetry lady asked me: “Do you have any anti-war poems? I said: “Yes, all my poems are anti-war.”
I sat down at the microphone and read the Cage poem. The anti-war people in the audience were not amused. I explained. “It’s war between the sexes,” I said vacating the stage.
I had overstayed my welcome. I walked to the bus stop under a full moon. A young man in torn jeans limped on one crutch across the street, shouting at someone who owed him money. I missed my bus and began walking, enjoying the moonlight, happy to be the silence.