Drip, clunk, ping, ring, crunch, bang, rustle, hush, hum, roar. The soundtrack of our lives contains music, voices, bells, weather, machinery, bird calls, the whisper of wind. Gentle words and shouting. Think of a soaring soprano, a raucous meeting of crows, the muffle of newfallen snow. Let’s relish the cacophony as we contemplate what silence holds—and whether it truly exists.
I offer here an aural collage to introduce the upcoming edition of After Hours, the first of 2018: Sound & Silence.
Time to gather stories, poems and songs to share on Wednesday, January 24—or just mark your calendar and get set to cock your ears.
The clock began to tick. Or I began
to hear it in the room where it had always
ticked and I had rested. The rhythm
appeared, like blood that had been there
circling invisible that surges from some cut,
that bursts open a flaw. A spurt, another,
regular. Won’t they ever end? Won’t it run out?
And it keeps running out, the blood in the terrified
attention fastened on the fountain…
(from “The Clock,” by A.F. Moritz)
“But the world is varied, there are storms and there are calms, and it was gloriously calm when they last rowed out, half a month ago. The world slept, the sea was a mirror that rose and fell. They had seen every crack and crevice in the mountains many kilometres from the boat and the sky arched over them like the roof of a church, the roof that protects us. The six men had been silent, humble and thankful for their existence. But it isn’t natural for a person to feel thankful or humble for long: some had started thinking about tobacco and forgotten eternal life.
(from Heaven and Hell, by Jón Kalman Stefánsson)
Toot me something on your golden horn
he said to the musician.
I feel cold as my soul turns blue.
Jerryrig me an intricate song
full of those diminished sevenths
and just enough thrust to push me through…
(from “Blues,” by Ricardo Sternberg)
An owl at night:
antennae of the frost.
(from “Bird Count,” by M. Travis Lane)
All that winter the rains arrived,
sometimes as nobody’s footsteps,
sometimes as ack-ack, sometimes
hard bits of Braille flung at the house,
the mailbox, the woodshed, at the car parked
in the driveway, at all that is solid, all
that winter leaving the window open to its
pizzicato, hearing them accelerate and blend and
drown in the river’s big
(from “Sleeping with the River,” by Don McKay)
Silence (as Sound):
There is, said Pythagoras, a sound
the planet makes: a kind of music
just outside our hearing, the proportion
and the resonance of things—not
the clang of theory or the wuthering
of human speech, not even
the bright song of sex or hunger, but
the unrung ringing that
supports them all.
(from “Practicing Bach,” by Jan Zwicky)
Churchmouse After Hours is a monthly neighbourhood coffeehouse with songs, stories, poems and prose on a rotating theme. All are welcome to listen or join in. Note: This is not a literary open-mic. Though local authors do participate, we are all readers sharing work we enjoy and admire. Fourth Wed of most months at 7 pm at Churchmouse Bookshop in St. Mary’s Oak Bay, 1701 Elgin Rd.