The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence
Elliott batTzedek

Reunion tour, two men, singing in tempo, in tune,
in time, but in no visible intimacy.
They sang how terribly strange to be
—poignancy of what youth couldn’t know
dulled by pre-arranged contractual promise of an audience
coming to deliver poignancy.

Crash course of greatest duo hits, crowd sighing
none of us are young anymore remember when?
The Everly Brothers are still alive?

Then those first solo songs, all Paul,
oh what he could do with lyric and line, so fine,
so lush. So full, so complete. Then that most
familiar high tenor was suddenly there.
There, where it hadn’t been but had to be.
There, one song then the next. Each one created
unfinished. In everything an empty space
for this voice, in every foundation a crack sealed
with session takes so only one would feel
the chill wind howling through.

He left a space in everything, a space that cast
a lanky bushy-haired shadow. Those city boys,
those neighborhood boys, this loss
that only love could lose.

What my love could never lose is its dignity, gained
by struggle, gay and lesbian brought out of shadow
into space blown open for complex sexualities.
Still, when I think of the road we’ve traveled on, I wonder
what we’ve lost, why we have no word for them,
these two aging men, with their passionate love played
on stage and jumbotron every night. If they,
if I, if you, make love, and refuse to mean
a trite euphemism for genital muscle spasms,
then in place of a name for this love I have
only longing and silence. And didn’t we dream
those would shatter no more souls? But here
we are. We’ve bought the tickets and t-shirts and yet
what we clearly see confuses us. But I know
how love sounds when it’s sung, and it’s alright,
it’s all right, it’s all right. And we’re trying to get,
that’s all, that’s all, that’s all
we’re trying to get the rest.

I would never have heard the space, my ears don’t work like that. Otter heard it, it made her cry, and me too, when she explained why what I was hearing mattered. Poets are like crows, I think, gathering shiny things, a habit some call theft but crows call instinct. So the insight is Otter’s shiny thing, and the poem is mine.

This poem has been sitting in me, trying to find a shape, since 2003. That it came out now was in part triggered by watching an astounding video of Paul Simon singing “American Tune” with just his guitar on

1 thought on “The Sound of Silence

  1. Thanks for the props, Elliott.

    Funny thing about me and S+G music… I”ve always sung the missing 3rd part. All the parts are so real to me that I sometimes forget which one is melody.

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