How to Feed Your Silence

First, know this:
it will hide.
It is skittish, fragile,
wide eyes peering
from your darkest wood,
feeding on
your barest turf.

This where it waits
for you to send away
the barking dogs,
the flashing, ringing bits.
Waits for you,
at last
to stop trying
to fill every moment,
plug every hole.
Waits for you
to ask it in.

This is when
you must reach deep,
to fill the hollow
of your hand,
when you must wait
in stillness
by the edge
of the shadowed
wood (longer
than you thought).

Maintain, though,
your still and tired arm.
Raise up your weary eyes
from buttons, lights,
and wait, wait

and first you will hear
the soft rustle of returning.
Then, the soothing
roar of nothing.
And finally, the whisper
of your soul, lapping,
from the hollow of your hand.


The wet streets glisten,
even under a gunmetal sky.
It’s a surprising beauty:
filled gutters picking up flashes
of white, red, amber, green,
the drizzled asphalt
carrying streaking headlights
forward along their way.

Not dark enough yet
to need them, really
but one of those few gestures,
like ticking turn signals,
not for us—for others.
I try not to judge those
who aren’t using them,
though mostly I fail.

The rain on these wet streets,
will it be enough
to ease our anxiety
of drought, charge
our drying streams, calm even
my prickling conscience,
during the next long shower?
Surely not.

And so once more, inevitably,
I burden the rain with expectation.
As I do those non-signalling drivers,
those escalator riders
who do not stand to the right,
those loud cell phone talkers
on crowded subway trains.
I could, once again, gather the rain

and all the rest, bitterly into my bosom.
But surely it should be enough,
instead, to look down and find,
underneath the slumbering sky,
headlights shooting comets
from puddle to puddle, and
our streets paved in starlight
of shimmering white, red, amber, green.


In the dim, grey light of fog-banked,
bone-chilled, knee-ached mornings
the reasons to just
never tire of marching their way around
the circular streets of my restless mind.

gone far enough
too tired
tender joints
too much to do
time to get back
no one will ever know.

And all the while,
the reasons to carry on

need to train
done soon
good for me

never seem loud enough to drown
out an incessant quitters’ parade,
always marching to the cadence of

And then the foghorn. Perhaps a wave,
breaking. A gull’s cry. The glimpse
of pelicans in elegant, military formation

and I remember
(perhaps only for a minute,
if I’m lucky, maybe five)—

empty the streets
open the gates and evict all
but the breathing, and the rhythm of it,
the sound of feet on pavement and gravel,
the sound of the water lapping
on my left
my right
the feel of the dog’s pull on his leash
the wind the sweat the chill the fog
the quality of light.

And what, only a moment ago
was somehow missing

so many birds,
drinking in the sight of them
bathing in the sounds of them
taking flight gliding by fluttering to a stop
calling chattering singing celebrating
standing stone-still ankle-deep
long-necked in a muddy tidal flat
welcoming me back
with every mile
again and
again to

Ryan Warren lives with his family in the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry and other writings have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Lost Coast Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Northern Light, Anchorage Daily News, U.S. 1 and Plum Tree Tavern.
image: man in a forest via Shutterstock