What does silence look like?

Sat 18 October 2003
By John Mark Schofield in Poetry

New poem. Definitely not finished. Might take the last two paragraphs and turn them into a new poem.

Everything I see makes a sound; what does silence look like?
We have no yardstick, no block of iridium one meter long;
we know absolute zero but without vacuum there is no absolute silence;
no stick exactly nothing long;
we measure noise but not its absence;
sound but not its consequence
silence there is none.
Listen to the varied sounds we call silence.

Even this building makes noise; were it quiet enough to hear them were the cars and the trucks and the voices and the radios and the steps made silent; we would hear the soft thwack thwack thwack thwack of the metal-turbaned vent spinning; the creak and groan of metal growing and shrinking throughout the day, and have I mentioned that electricity hummmmmmmmmmmmms?

You could hear your own heart beating if everything else would just shut the fuck up!

But sometimes you hear a melody in this cacophony or a rhythm that catches you; individual elements that stand out like a soprano in a barbershop quartet; the throaty, pitched-to-carry "tamales, tamales, tamales" I hear every morning from seven to nine; the pigeons that terrified beat all at once past my window; their wings like a maddened brush-using percussionist. Melodious Spanish with a back-beat of percussive Korean; Nortenos from car windows blending with Asian music I can't identify from an open shop door.