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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  • I just love this — so beau­ti­ful Dan!! Thank you.

  • Thank you so much, Anne-Marie. I’m glad you enjoyed this poem and appre­ci­ate your leav­ing a comment.

  • byron murray wrote:

    Sis­ter known as Silence
    Broth­er called Quiet
    both are endearing
    both give strong leadership
    Some­times from the middle
    but always when needed
    like the “qui­et” of a river
    that asks you to listen
    to the falls whirling rapids
    both sib­lings know the power
    of still­ness in their world­ly souls
    and the force of their true nature
    if we are qui­et and lis­ten the path
    of a des­tiny will lay before us
    and the pil­grims through the wilderness
    will find the new commandments

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