John Hicks is an emerging poet: has been published or accepted for publication by: South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Bangor Literary Journal, The Wild Word, Two Cities Review, Blue Nib, Poetica Review, and others. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Nebraska – Omaha, and writes in the thin mountain air of northern New Mexico.
Silence Is Different Here
Silence is different here, you said.
Not like my apartment.
When you arrived, we went into the garden;
listened to a sagebrush lizard turning over gravel
seeking bugs in the shade of the desert willow.
The rocks made small clicking sounds.
Cities I’ve abandoned layer days dull with noise; pull back
at night for the deli owner testing his door when he locks up,
for the saxophone player practicing in a doorway two blocks down,
and for couples spilling onto the street from Gatsby’s.
But here, sound is horizontal. Like wind sloping up
from the Ojo del Orno—giving voice to each juniper and piñon
as it reaches them; like thunder counting the seconds after lightning
leaps between clouds grumbling among the mesas. Yet midday,
with this heat rising from the sand, we have only air whispering
over the wings of the crow, mingling with its feathering.
No visit to New Mexico would be complete
without a sunrise. This morning we’re listening
to night shifting from black and white to deepest blue;
and to pink as it tops the large juniper, turning us
to seek the sweet spot where today will emerge;
and to a horse whinny to the north. Closer,
the one note of a Townsend’s Solitaire repeats,
like a wheel turning over a dry spot. And a car
on the ridge road in slow pursuit of headlights,
its tires muttering apologies to the gravel.
When light finds the ridge, coyotes start up. One
gives a hoarse bark, another a series of yips
that prompt high-pitched yowls from still more.
We live within our hearing;
its taste of everyday.
Come on then. There’s work to do if
we’re to have wood when you’ve gone.
Bring the crosscut.
Weak light through the window;
too weak for shadows. The bus
is hours away.
My kit is by the door. Recruiter
said bring just toothbrush and razor;
they’d provide the rest.
We leave the lamp for Ma. He
collects the hammer and wedges.
I take the saw from the shed.
When I get there, he’s lifted a limb
of the downed oak onto the sawhorse; stands
on the other side, breath-clouds before him.
We work until the sun stands over the barn;
he takes an armload to the house.
I return the saw.
So that’s it then. He stiffens,
extends his hand. I know
she’s watching. I have her parcel
in my left hand. He turns away,
and I look into my hands,
walk out to the road then.