How are you?
Her answer is always simply
“I’m fine, thank you.
But she never spoke of the Shadow,
The weight of Nothing that stops her lips
From articulating some Fear she knows
She feels, but knows not from which cell it spawned.
For speech is as inadequate
As people are at empathy.
She wants to say, sing, shout – be heard.
But words can offer no pity;
Lifeless symbols cannot capture
The sense of beings and things.
Imagine hearing the sum of one’s experience
Contracted to the span of one lonely syllable –
Fine – if words have power – it is their ability
To distort the reality of solitude.
They communicate how humanity hides
Itself from itself.
Why speak if with this utterance
One can keep the demons quiet –
For now – it pays to have things hushed.
So in a flash of evanescent pulchritude,
She smiles and it looks pretty – good –
Though our eyes don’t meet. The air tensed
As though a gentle plea
Escaped her prison of resolve:
A soft cry for companionship –
For any one comprehending soul
To listen to the flood of words tumbling
Out of locked jaws in – ineffable silence.
I shrugged and wished that I could understand.
Then said, I’m fine – too.
Benedict Tan, Johor Bahru.