When there was something C wanted to say,
but he could only see it, not say it,
he’d tell his father,
“I can feel the answer in my mind,”
—and he could, soft and oily as lamb’s wool—
“but I don’t know the words for it.”
Then you don’t know the answer, Capital C would say.
You don’t have an idea except in words.
Yet C did too have an idea,
soft and unformed as a penis on a sleeping boy.
Years later, on the phone to her, his father
crept into his mind: No ideas but as words. “Ohhh,”
C whispered into the satin-edged blanket of nothingness,
“Ohhh, I love you.” That was not really his idea.
In his mind it was much more complex,
and had as many spinnings to it as twists in yarn.
He’d knit up his thought too early.
I love you really were the wrong words to say,
for his longing was vague and curled,
and the three words stood for three thousand,
and fell as three boy warriors, sacrificed for an army of 3,000
who stayed asleep in their tents.
So she took it wrong. Thought her hard thought,
something capitalized instantly,
Later excuses of a nameless nature were made
nothing either had words for,
something the Couples Counselor could never unravel.
But from that old moment of false commitment,
C felt the value of his silences.
He was a soft C,
while Capital C had been hard,
and his son’s mother, his ex-wife, was hard.
Even as a grandfather with a rumpled blanket of a face
C often did not bother to speak.
Saying things killed them.
Why would a person want to close up a thought?
Why not leave things open,
Then he hooked his grandchild under his arm
and carried him up to bed
with his son walking upstairs beside them.
Tucking the boy in after grandpa left, his son explained,
Oh Big C, he’s a softie. He never says nothing.
–from Rattle #32, Winter 2009