Silence Like Rain

'Silence Like Rain' by Philip Gross

'Silence, like rain, falling / on the Quaker Meeting...' | Photo: SpicyTruffel /

Silence, like rain, falling
on the Quaker Meeting, on the congregation
of rooks at the edge of the wood, on the sangha
where a young monk enters late, at the back, folds his saffron robe in place
a little too carefully, then even he forgets himself

in silence, like rain falling, spreading
West, like evening, over fens dark with the bad
dreams of prehistory, rain spreading out in fans, flared wings
of rufflement across grey sea like the grey of the sky with wind visible;
silence falling on deep forest,

pine and spruce accepting it
like their own in-breath, silence as particular
in detail and uncountable as the pine needles; falling evenhandedly
on drought and rising flood, tapping windows like our tapping the barometer,
the long-range forecast, nagging questions;

silence falling on the just and unjust,
like a blessing on parched fields, like a thrill
of recognition, an astonishment of welcome raising
petrichor, the savour of new-wetted earth; elsewhere, equally, a weight
of loneliness, shouldered daily; a family curse

falling into a pale child’s locked room,
the name of the lock, Our Little Secret; storm drains
overflowing, a choked gush roiling up; rain on a crowded market,
in a drench at the first gunshot, just before the screaming; silence drowned
by an absence of sound so loud with power

and prohibition that we’re dumbed;
sometimes we have to cry out for true silence again;
a steady downpour darkening the pavement, muddying the sky;
falling at last after centuries of more and more elaborate rain-dances,
all found wanting, falling as a gift;

silence disguised as music,
not the notes, the five, six strands of voices buttressed
one against each other in the high vault Thomas Tallis built
but the echoing space between them, vast enough that clouds form
in the rafters, fine rain falling, silence falling

through the shredding veils of sound; rain
so clear and minute, if you could live up close enough
to see, it’s almost nothing, and never the same drops falling
yet a whole world reflected in each, so many that what can our minds
say but ‘the same’; silence like rain

dissolving riverbanks, distinctions
between what is sound and what its opposite;
that can crispen our hearing to a shock of definition and
can loosen us, to nothing but itself; a silence that’s a speaking
that is its own listening,

that gradually confides: this is nothing
to do with the absence of sound; a silence that dispenses
with itself, that shucks off ‘silence’ like its dry husk, the word
and the thought of it; that makes us a place in the world; silence fed
like rainfall from a cycle too vast

and slow to see except in glimpses,
say, the cloud-piles building on the sea horizon,
heavy with the future, weather, coming. Silence
that is our whole habitation, here-ness, how this water-planet
breathes and speaks and thinks.

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