“Questions for Stephen Hawking” by Jill M. Talbot

Jill M. Talbot


Do you still believe it’s intelligent life we ought to avoid?

This is a silent poem. Every letter
is silent, every word is silent, every
line is silent, every stanza is silent.
Even the stanza breaks are silent.

Are poets as useless as philosophers?

This is a silent painting. Since you
don’t know what you could be missing,
you don’t know what you could see.
That’s what silence is.

Do black holes take library books?

Maybe they’ve taken all of the noise
from the silent letters. Maybe they’ve
taken the library books. Maybe they’ve
taken heaven from atheists.

Are atheists afraid of the dark?

This is a poem for people afraid of
the light, afraid of the silence of the dark.
Fairy tales were made to terrify, not

If a robot asks me out, do I say yes?

In the future there may be silent
roosters, and nobody will know
what they’re missing.

A silent man seems attractive,
in the meantime.

If the elephant in the room dies, do you have a funeral?

This is not a protest poem. It’s just
an image. It’s just the silence that
occurs between neurons firing,
putting what was upside-down
right-side up. You can only protest
death once it’s already in the room,
taking up all the silent space.

If we meet in heaven will you avoid me? Will you declare it all a bad dream or a good dream? Will we drink rum and coke or virtue?

Happily ever after was only
a mutation.

Will you take a look at my theory of nothing?

That’s okay, it was the silence
I was after.

from Poets Respond
March 18, 2018


Jill M. Talbot: “This is a response to the death of Stephen Hawking. I found much of what he had to say outside of his research interesting. His fear of intelligent robots and aliens, his demand that he not appear drunk on The Simpsons … but mainly the notion that heaven is a ‘fairy tale for people afraid of the dark.’ Hawking has also been critical of philosophers. I wondered where the arts appeared in all of this. If science offers Ativan and writers offer stories, I choose the latter. It is in death that we often turn to art, religion, and philosophy—not necessarily for comfort, but perhaps for something human. Nevertheless, Hawking was certainly an inspiring figure for scientists and non-scientists alike.” (web)

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