Tag Archives: silence

#7 ~ Library Hustle

The library used to be a place of utter un-productivity for me. The silence, the stuffiness and the feigned concentration all brought me into direct contact with the greying boarder of a comatose state. But then I discovered working in my room just meant extended nap time – so me and the library had to sort out some kind of effective working pact. Yet, now traversing my final year, there are a few things about the library and the evident hustle that takes place in it, that I have decided to take some real issue with.

No .1 – The Stage Whisper.

I work in the SPS library. It should stand for Select People’s Study Library considering very clear-cut gang lines develop as the year progresses. Territorial possession of tables and glowering stares are the welcome party for newbies who have not been pulling solid 9-7’s since October. But it stands for Sociology Politics and…I actually don’t know what the last S is for. It could be Social Anthropology….i’m genuinely not sure. But anyway, this library, designed to let natural light caress your double-strength, high-gloss text-book pages, is open planned. It means sound carries. The librarians, a pretty chilled-out lot, occupy the lower level, so us students have free reign up top – yet the taboo of speaking still holds court. So to get around it, happy homework gangs, crowded around adjacent tables decide to whisper. But not the imperceptible whisper that is conducive to putting together an escape plan while your kidnapper is negotiating with the police. A stage whisper. You know, the type of whisper that takes place by actors on a stage to convey the idea of a real whisper, but audible enough so the AUDIENCE CAN HEAR??!!

What is the point. Seriously? Why go to all those lengths. Just talk normally. Because when said culprits whisper all this unchartered air begins to gush out between their teeth as they start to over enunciate and develop an elongated lisp so all I hear is the crashing waves of sss’s and punctuative, plosive ‘ps’ and ‘bs’ that sear through my headphones. And then they laugh – because obviously essay planning can only be endured with humour. Imagine that – a stage whispered laugh. If you can’t, it sounds like rapid fire heavy breathing and asthmatic inhaling. Why? Just. Why?

No.2 – Adopting the Studious Position with Pzaaaaz

You know those people. They clomp up the steps, huffing and puffing so all the tables shake and everyone raises their head in anticipation of their entrance. Swinging their backpack/handbag some kind of holding device off their shoulders they let it land on the table, wham, the impact rippling through the stacked books and forcibly re-arranging the metal casing of your laptop, so that your equipment ends up with a sympathetic dent. Then throwing themselves onto their chairs, they sigh at all the (un-called for ) effort they have expelled, before scrambling (loudly) to unpack their chargers, snap open their laptops, smash their (constantly vibrating) phones in the space that separates your elbow from their sprawl of papers.

Click goes the top of the highlighter, preeeeessssss goes the nib engraving their thoughts into the very psyche of the long dead table their elbows are pressing studiously into. They exhale, nostrils flaring as your skin is engulfed in a stream of air.

WHY SO MUCH EFFORT PEOPLE. Making notes just isn’t that deep. The library is a quiet place. Learn to unpack quietly. Learn to notes take quietly. Learn to BREATHE quietly. We all know that this year is a hustle year, we’re all getting into gear, but being extraneously noisy is at best a distraction at worst an inconvenience. Stop, please and learn the art of gentle working.

And last but not least….

No.3 – “Hey, i’m in the library…what’s up?”

Are.You.Mad. It’s not a question, it’s not even a form of rhetoric, it is the sound of utter exasperation. Not only is your phone ON (and at this point i’d like to also call out the jingle for what’s app messages – that is seriously getting to me, a still non-smartphone user), but you both register the call, register your surroundings, and answer – in a more than AUDIBLE voice. At this point I urge you to bring back the somewhat redundant stage whisper at least. That is better than the blatant causality with which you engulf all within sonic reach with the ins and outs of your life. Stop.

I’m not saying i’ve never answered my phone in the library. Sometimes things happen. But when they do, you cup your hand over your mouth, whisper ‘in lib, hold on’, and dash down the stairs to the freedom of outside. Upon your return, you nod your head apologetically to all who greet your presence, place said phone in your pocket where its’ vibrations will not be heard, and return to your work. The precarious peace has been restored.

The library hustle is a serious thing, but let’s make it a hush hush hustle.

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#353 ~ Silent Gestures Elide My Weapon

You won’t know what I’m capable of until I’ve done it … so I do more and speak less

What is it?

It’s not about whether or not you know if i’m capable…

I spent so long as a child, thighs pressed firmly into the concrete ground, as tiny stones mimicking granite and quartz rose impressed themselves upon my tender

flesh, embedding grooves and disfigured tattoos against the supple tone of my impressionable

skin, and i squinted with lash shaded eyes at the silver disc that hung in the pale blue primary school

sky, dreaming about what I could be

Because it never was who.

I wondered what I could be and whether it would entertain the category of worth that we all seem to perceive, subconsciously aware of the innate deceit that plagues that concept of maturity and with it success, excess –

For speech is an action.

Once again you elide my weapon, specifically chosen, bestowed upon me as a precious sword engraved with golden gilt, bejewelled by the dexterity of a tongue and the intellect of a wit that has surpassed the bondage of chains

that strip one’s mind like a flayed hide of any

power to control this spiralling world concerned and fuelled by the need to attain each individuals selfish desire…

Yet when I speak i declare the power of a word to transform and transfer, my action I bind within my speech as with the sound of my voice I am relentlessly setting the captives free, proclaiming victory and instituting justice. As I flash my teeth I shine down

beauty and a fierce hope – you only wish you could cope with the unbound sounds of my voice as I break your silent action and in the process I don’t bring it but give it life.

What did you say?

I spoke right? You won’t know what i’m capable of until i’ve done it – but if I remain silent you’ll never look to see the gestures that are lost in the blanket of an omnipresent silence

Besides, as I sat staring at that primary school sun, buttocks pressed into the concrete ground cemented for activities that would be ‘fun’, i knew that it didn’t matter if you knew what I was capable of – in my mind i’d already done the action, right now i’m just illustrating the person.

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#136 ~ A Silent Circumcision

(A work in progress: Initial draft)

You think you know me?

You think you understand

what it feels like to feel rusty iron shoved up between your thighs

at the age of nine, crying until your eyes

turned rheumy red, mimicking the blindness that endorsed this

abomination masked as

enforced chastity.

You think you hear me?

You hear my cry, my voice, my silent holla

as I wave good-bye to you

standing under dappled streetlights, the pavement creaking under the weight

of my souls bereavement

the face that glares back at me from those sealed windows

tightly bolted doors

the curtains screwed together  – except i’m the better whore

That’s right. I thought you knew me? Or didn’t I give you my name?

Oh, you want to come up all inside me

Get to know  me, as if what counts is on the inside?

Well let me tell you what’s up in here. Twisted fallopian tubes, bruised intestines

pools of congealing blood mixing, mixing

choking, beating

sealed shut with stitches wound tight

dark skin, once soft and fleshy

drawn taut like a stretched leather hide

a tiny hole, not like the orifice you described

Just enough to let the trickle of urine strike the insides

of these interlocked thighs

But shhh – why you laughin’?

Don’t you know silence is the sign of a purified life

As we sit, separated by styrofoam walls

each crouched over porcelain bowls, holes in the creaking, cracking, fecal stained floors

Silence is the sound of my worth. So silently I scream giving birth to Ibrahim, Joseph, what ever it’s called

Silence is the sound of my worth. So silently I piss, not groaning in pain as though my uterus has compacted into a spiked ball, as UTI’s sear through my crouched and quivering form

Silence is the sound of my worth. So silently is how i sit, giving you blank stares as i sit in the clinic for African Mutilation, found in the Elizabeth Garret Anderson Ward off Tottenham Court

road, dumb to your question, oblivious to your silent gestures.

I wanted to cry when they thrust that rusted iron deep into my soul

Seared the pointed needles, kept me drunk on alcohol

I wanted to protest at what they thought was best for me and my chastity

But i didn’t have the words, didn’t have the voice to say, no, this isn’t for me

When you do it, it’s a sign of worth. A symbol of your status as a man of the cloth, a man of honor, virtue, clean and pure,

That scaly foreskin that slips off hardly leaves a dent in your, male principle

Hardly leaves a scar on your manly stature

But when you do it to me…

I am not emasculated – in fact there is no word

I simply cease to exist

I am no more – just a silently screaming hole with a botched up cover holding me together

Till you come to claim me, pin me down, impregnate me

and ignore, this silently screaming horror, like a toothless jaw, wrenched open to envelope your – to envelope you.

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#100 ~

Marked the centennial post

And just like history, in retrospect you acknowledge the greatness

Yet at the time you have nothing to say.

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#99 ~ An Ossified Cage

I once asked a friend if I was a passionate person. He paused on the phone, so I re-phrased my question. He replied very softly. “Yes. Yes you’re passionate, but not fiery-passionate.” I was mildly disappointed. I wanted to be a burning light of passion consuming everything, setting other people on fire. “You’re more like the water. Slow, steady, sometimes getting whipped up, but there is a depth to your passion, a longevity, an intense profundity and power.”

There are very few things I like doing on request. I will still do them, but begrudgingly, laconically, with varying degrees of irritation. There are a variety of things, sometimes the same things I get requested to do, which I love when I’ve made the initial choice. When I perform those tasks, participate in those actions, I give my everything. When I sing, when I really sing and worship, it doesn’t come from my vocal chords, but deep, deep inside the tissues of my heart. It comes from a quietly raging place within me, and it grows taking on a life and form of its own that cannot be contained. In those pure moments, my anxiety about other people’s thoughts and opinions are buffeted out of the window of my consciousness. My voice rips out loud, long, strong, covered in a myriad of emotions, thoughts, a polyphonic expression of who I am.

My rib cage becomes like a prison, which my fleshy heart pours itself against, tears at, rails and tries to snap, to break free and leap out into the sound waves that surround me in a harmonic aura of light. The cage grows tight, my lungs are squeezing, straining to push everything, push my heart out of my mouth and into the ether, the other world.

I know at times it is vital to be conscious of other people, how your presence, your sound, your being affects them. I spend so much of my life reinforcing that internal prison, to make myself acceptable, to mould into a shape that benefits and is conducive to other people. I shut down, silence, redirect, or just whisper.

But sometimes, I just wish, there was that place to be completely free, but not alone. To let rip and pour out my heart in song, in shouts, in speaking loud, and for a moment, surrounded by people I love, people who are also in that place of worship, to crush that ossified prison cell and step out, ringing loud and clear.

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#90 ~ Communication

When I was little my Father tried to teach us big words in simplified ways. The same way my mum broke down words like business into bus – i-ness or people into pe-o-ple to successfully pass spelling tests, so my Dad did, but for another reason. At the time I don’t think I realised, but in retrospect, the philosophical depth and insight he was sharing with us was a lot vaster than our nine-year-old minds could fully comprehend. To us it was just Dad going into one of his lectures just when we wanted to watch that specific Disney movie, or to finish the last pages of the enthralling fantasy or action book we begrudgingly held in our laps under the dinner table after being caught surreptitiously devouring a paragraph between mouthfuls.

One of the words and the way we learnt it really struck me today.

Communication: Come You and I into Action ( Come U and I into Action)

At the very essence of the word, which the concise OED defines as ‘1: the action of communicating 2: the means of sending or receiving information 3: the means of travelling or of transporting goods,’ my Dad, the Wise-One, has it spot on. Communication was and is the process of individuals or parties coming into action to share, receive, impart something.  It is an integral part of our lives, our very essence of being. As humans we are made to be in relationship with one another, and not just in the way we conceive relationship today, but in its simplest form (reverting back to the concise OED) ‘1: the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected. 2: the way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave towards each other.’ We are called intrinsically into a connection with one another, to co-exist. Relationship is fundamental to the way we behave, and part of the that is the act of communicating.

So what happens when we can’t? Currently the only person left in my accommodation, there gets to a point when the music that blares from your speakers can only do so much to fill the void of human bodies. It becomes like your favourite blanket that once seemed to be a canvass which blotted out the night sky, and now hangs stretched and deformed, arthritic cloth-hands barely reaching over your midriff. Underneath it all is the permeating silence, the visible sense of loneliness which only leaves you. ‘You’ can be an extremely claustrophobic being. Suffocating and invasive.

‘You’ begin to crave communication in a way that transcends seeing Facebook notifications. The desire to hear the timbre of someone’s voice, see the crinkle of an active mouth. When my twin and I (finally) parted ways after sharing the same room, friends and schools since we were born, a sigh of relief and the muted cry of freedom filled my heart. Yet that distance made me desire contact even more, just as the quiet kitchens and bathrooms make me want my room mates to return, with all their quirky late night cheese eating, solo wine drinking, stressful juice gulping antics.

To come into action with other people. To speak, to share, to impart to relate to other people. It is a precious gift, fully realised when it is no longer present.

So i write these words, hoping that as you read them, regard them, as your behaviour changes in response to them, you and I will come into some form of action, the action of imparting something, an idea, a feeling, an insight, a part of me into a part of you. Let’s get relational.

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#85 ~ Ararat

What is the greatest  act of genocide man can enact? Is it the systematic eradication of a race? The slow torture and obliteration of the very scent, sign, or inclination of their existence? Is it the removal of a name? A language? A faith, a culture and eventually a history?

Can we be consigned to silence?

Or rather, within the silence that permeates our lives, is there a definitive version of the truth?

Because silence breathes. It lives, it eats, it moves. It encroaches, and if you listen hard enough it speaks. We often think its voice is timid, muted, creeping along the floorboards, tugging at our trouser leg like an intimidated child, trying but not really wanting, to get our attention. We think it is shy, it suffers from a speech impediment, and therefore lets its older sibling Noise steal the lime-light. Often we believe that Silence is in an intimate relationship with the very distant relative who is ‘accidentally’ excluded from family events, Death. Their love, we assume, is a deep love, sensuous, perverse, and all-encompassing. It is inescapable making them symbiotic beings, intertwined, intermingled, like the ecstatic eye-beams of Donne’s erotic Ecstasy. They begin to allude to one another, Silence becomes Death just as Death becomes Silence.

But Silence has her own story. At times it is contrapuntal to History. That’s right, her cousin History. He is the ‘nerdy’ one. You often find him in the library till the early hours of the morning, sometimes just waiting for waking sunbeams to strike the corners of his lenses, illuminating a missing fragment of a forgotten letter. Yet even the stories that History tells as they sit round the bonfire, eagerly awaiting the creation of new lands, new voices, new people and characters, Silence has heard and seen before. Look closely and she is there. Watching that dawn break, peeping quietly over his shoulder to also read, also interpret and also remember that forgotten piece of text.

Silence speaks loud and clear and often. In fact she speaks the most. She resides within the breaths that Noise hurriedly snatches from her permeating tranquility. Neither is she confined to the external, but gently caresses your mind,when you sleep, when you wake, she is speaking. She steals into the fragile pages that History greedily consumes, at every blink of his eye she eats her way further and further into the story until she is immersed, she has merged, she is the story. Even within History she is present, sometimes unseen, unacknowledged, simply ignored because she appears to be of no harm, but she is there waiting.

Waiting for one question.


When you ponder aloud, when you actively read and simply ask that question, even if it’s – but why was he called that? – she will answer. She will tell you another story, one that History missed, or didn’t think was good enough for his bonfire tales.

Silence will sing you a lullaby. Sometimes it is joyful, often mournful, it may be long, tedious, confusing and convoluting, but her voice is sweet. If you can stay awake long enough, if you are lured by the siren that hides deep within this stuttering-child, you may be enticed to ask more questions. To say that word again, that question, yes, why?

Silence speaks in the fiction that dares to ask another question. The fiction that dares to approach Mount Doom from the raging eyes of a vulnerable, insecure, inflamed eye, and not the golden hearted hobbits with cut feet and stomachs full of lembas bread. Fiction dares to give the archetypal nemesis who raped and ravaged the body of child of 5, the exposure of his humanity, fragile as it may be, as he tends the ailing body of his mother, eaten up by cancer, his depravity acknowledged alongside other parts of his fractured identity. Fiction dares to acknowledge the massacre of the Armenia people and their genocide of 1915, which, if acknowledged is consigned deep in the recesses of memory,

What is the greatest act of genocide a man can enact?

To remove the voice of Silence, by preventing fiction from capturing memory, and within that, perhaps not the  but a truth that informs us of someone’s very real, very human, identity.

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