The Quiet World
In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.
When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.
Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.
When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.
This imaginative portrayal of a world with less speaking is irrational; the tenderness shows through. The line, “I am adjusting well to the new way” belies the complications that must arise in a situation like this. With the concluding two lines, “After that, we just sit on the line / and listen to each other breathe” I am struck with how much love has been conveyed by silence.