How We Learned Our Language


We gathered around the stony hill
and watched it as the seasons turned,
and years went by with heat and cold,
rain-lashed, sleet-lashed, snow;
and then, wan light returning
we considered it all and some
began to call it patience.

There were places we gathered,
there and there upon that hill,
near the flowing pines who whispered
among themselves while we softly hummed,
and some of us, learning to dance
mimicked with their arms just so, outspread.
For lack of something better
we called that grace, though we also knew
that word would never be enough.

Just then it seemed someone heard
two hawks cry out in their fierce gyre
high above the hill and pines
and since we knew so few of nature’s words
we listened closely as they spoke
and someone called them wise.

Later, in deep night, we woke to hear
the dark stream still talking,
and someone said it was the prayer
that is always going on without our knowing.
We went outside to better listen and saw
how the last feathers of that prayer
floated out above the hill and pines,
the cold snags where the hawks often roosted.

We watched those bright feathers go up
and fade away with all our hopes
and all our sadness, our love and
violence, our vanities and cares
against the boundless sky.
And then there was nothing more.

That next morning we gathered around
and we could see that nothing
still gathered in one another’s eyes.
What could we do but wait patiently
for the grace that might make us wise?
Our human prayer.

Then it was she came down to us
teaching us all our words,
a whole language that changed us
and bestowed her blessing
from one single word, her sacred name,
the one by which we still call her,
our sister, Silence.

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