Silence is clean, a frigate leaving a harbour
with no siren wailing.
Silence is a tureen that needs no scouring
for the last stains of grammar.
Silence is fire,
a threat with no reprieve.
Silence is a panther
that stalks us through jade eyes.
This feathered leaf must have fallen from the hand
of the woman who turned around to see
if her child had strayed too close to the slope
of the fuming mountain or the hunting birds,
and left her footprint in ash that hardened
to rock. A spray of seeds released that noon
remains in the thick air, and this gift:
a leaf trapped between layers of mud
that volcanic fire baked into stone:
drained of light and green, long spasm,
breath dusted with pollen, a net
of veins splayed on an altar
where the river turns in its sleep
and an old woman lights a lamp.