Sunday, February 20, 2011

Discussing Silence

Everyone Goes to Church But the Motorcycle Mechanic 

                                                                                                       by Gayle Sliva

                                          All week I anticipate
                                          Sunday morning when all
                                          good neighbors go to church,
                                          and peace is restored for
                                          both my horses and the poet
                                          in me who begs to write.

                                          We lead the three Arabs
                                          from back paddock to front
                                          pasture where, on Sunday
                                          mornings, traffic is
                                          cut down to a fraction
                                          of its normal weekday volume.

                                          Heads down, the horses
                                          graze within their
                                          acrylic white fence while I
                                          bring a chair, pen, and
                                          tablet to the shade of the
                                          poplar tree. A cool breeze
                                          caresses my bare arms,
                                          Russian Olive leaves tremble
                                          pleasantly, crickets chirp,
                                          birds gossip, and two
                                          resident cottontails meet
                                          beneath the pines to
                                          discuss silence in the
                                          wiggle of whiskers, the
                                          turning of periscope ears.

                                          Within minutes, the motorcycle
                                          engine starts up, loud as
                                          Godzilla attacking Tokyo.
                                          Again and again, it revs
                                          and roars, clawing the air,
                                          ripping jagged lines through
                                          the blue Sierra sky.

                                          Mountains crumble.

                                          The horses lose their
                                          appetites, run frantically in
                                          circles in search of an
                                          escape route from the
                                          screaming beast, and I
                                          lose the poet in me
                                          within a flock of sparrows
                                          scattering from the Willow trees.

When it comes to writing poetry, I practically go into a trance.  Loud noises, distractions, and interruptions are the enemy.  Often when I write, I'm in a race against time to get a first draft from beginning to end before something jerks me out of the mood.  It's important for writers to have a space where they can have control over the airwaves.  That space used to be my patio, but then the motorcycle mechanic moved in across the street, the granite counter top grinder moved in down the road, the dragster mechanic moved in way too close, and the construction foreman moved in next door, building cabinets and whatnot on his driveway right next to my barn.

Fortunately, the noise isn't as bad as it was during the big construction boom.  Back then I even had 18-wheelers turning around in my driveway several times a day, their drivers oblivious to the fact that they were terrifying my horses, causing them to cause themselves injuries in their panic, and running up my vet bills.  If a truck driver is going to pull into my driveway while I'm riding a young, green, fearful, inexperienced horse, he may as well bring a shotgun with him and shoot me, because roaring a huge vehicle with a loud engine right up to an untrained horse carrying a rider has the same result.  If you haven't read Maxine Kumin's memoir, Inside the Halo and Beyond, I highly recommend it... especially to truck drivers.  My husband had to put up a barrier at the end of our driveway, because these truck drivers didn't have the courtesy to respect my PRIVATE DRIVE - PLEASE STAY OUT sign.

For years I've watched the motorcycle and ATV fanatics clash with the horseback riders and nature lovers.  I'm fascinated by communities built specifically for people who share the same hobbies and interests.  In New Mexico there is a neighborhood specifically for pilots.  They can fly their planes to and from the neighborhood airstrip and taxi down the street into their own driveway and hanger next to their house.  In California there is a horse community where the stores have hitching posts and the land is designed to allow a harrow bed truck loaded with hay to back right up to the hay storage.  Writers' communities usually consist of one building dedicated to housing writers or a group of cabins used for a writing retreat.

I'd like to see more of this -- intelligently designed communities where rules don't necessarily have to be made and enforced, because everyone shares a similar mindset.  Quiet people here.  Loud people there.


Sylvia Ney said...

What a beautiful sentiment. I felt more relaxed and at peace just reading the poem. Thank you for sharing.

Jen Chandler said...

And the quiet people and the loud people are separated by miles and miles of open fields ;)

I understand. I need background music to write, music without lyrics and it's terribly hard to hear your neighbor's TV or the conversation at the cafe table next to you and keep your concentration focused.

Your picture of Sunday mornings (sans motorcycle mechanic) is beautiful :D

Happy weekend!