What The Quiet Gives Voice To
In honour of the life of the late poet Mary Oliver
When I say it is quiet, I mean I can hear everything.
Wings on brackish water, becoming wings on salty air as the goldeneyes take flight. I can hear the tide slackening after it’s swift rising; swelling so much as to embrace the bottom-most branches of overhanging cedars. A tide that reaches to the sky to meet the Wolf Moon in her fullness. The shape of a V forms overhead and I hear Mary Oliver’s voice whispering the hushed words of her poem, Wild Geese.
It is haunting, what the quiet gives voice to.
She died three days ago. The morning sun cups my face with two warm palms; stains my closed eyelids an illuminated red. I grieve the only way I know how. To place myself in the hands of a river valley, to be held in silence. To give myself to the morning. I grieve the death of someone I never knew. Someone I will never know. Someone whose words have shaped the person I have become, and the person I am becoming.
When I say it is silent here, in the grace of this estuary, I mean I can hear everything. I mean that last night I had a dream that I died. In the wake of my death, I overheard someone describe me in one word. They said, ‘She was quiet.’
Quiet. I’ve gone so much of my life speaking to be heard, seeking to be understood. In the dream I felt at peace with that simple summation of my being, though somehow knowing I’ve yet to earn such an adjective.
Quiet. I hope that means I am listening. Listening to everything the silence gives voice to.
Most mornings I read my favourite poem written by Mary Oliver - Dogfish. One that I scribbled out and place next to where ever I sleep so that it should greet me when I wake. I read it aloud upon rising. I read it to myself, to my dog. To the morning. The words wash me with peace.
It feels strange somehow, even to a stranger, that Mary Oliver is no longer waking to the world she wrote so honestly of. It feels like a great gift that her words are immortal. There, always, to wash over anyone who opens to them.
Here, held high by the tide, I am quiet. I am thanking someone I did not know, yet somehow knew, for their life.
And just then, I hear the wild geese pass by overhead - harsh and exciting.
April Bencze, January 20, 2019
In honour of the life of the late poet Mary Oliver, September 10, 1935-January 17, 2019
About the author
Ḵwiḵwa̱sut'inux̱w Ha̱xwa'mis First Nation territory (Gilford Island, BC, Canada). Creekwalker. Writer. A lover of plants, rivers, the interconnectedness of all things, and the woods.