Poems & Essays

23 Jan

The Silence and the Noise

General/Column One Response

my mom gave me a quarter
to be quiet
for an hour.

The words clinked against the bars of my teeth,
little prisoners,
plotting their escape —
Their assail on my mother’s ears.

I didn’t understand.

And then there it was:
the cacophony of motherhood
surround sound —
exclamation-pointed mandates,
blaring interjections,
wails in the dark.

Somewhere between the 1 am wake up
and the 2 am wake up —
Somewhere in the midst of the singing, and bouncing, and rocking, shushing and crying —

I understood.

I’d have offered more than a quarter.

She finally gave in,
and I heard the great sigh of sleep,
the silence —

the great punctuation mark to the run on sentence of motherhood:
a moment that can seep under the skin and sink,
or float away
like tiny bubbles.


connected only
by the silence
that separates them.


They never warned me about a lot of things
I was spared details.

the blood pressure cuff contracting like a boa constrictor
The percussive beeping,
The voices, urgent.
the primal breaths and guttural sounds
my mental noise. She appeared —

In that moment,
everyone held their breath
waiting for hers.

She cried,
so did I.

But what if that silence had been complete?
What if instead of a caesura,

a period.

And instead of the discordant crying and
uproarious laughter
there was only stillness.

Because that —
that quiet —

that —

must be the most deafening of all-
the crushing frequency,

immeasurable by Newton.

No law can explain.

No one told her about the details
The leaving with an empty car-seat —
the packing of the nursery,
placing tiny socks
in boxes to be obscured from vision.
The empty hope chest.
The moment when she hears her daughter’s name,
called across the playground.
It’s not hers.

There are no platitudes
worth repeating,
no matter how the tuning fork
in my mind vibrates to find the pitch,
the precision will not be a poultice.

It cannot.
So I say nothing.

In place of a name,
there is silence.

a hesitation to mention

as if one could forget

And there —
the great divide,
a cavern so deep
the echoes are lost
in yawning wells of

That silence —
a crying out for her name.


Erin Holtz is a poet, a Creative Writing teacher, and above all, a mother. She has been published in “Lament for the Dead.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment

Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

  1. Shanna Powlus Wheeler

    January 23, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Thank you for the timing and truth of this poem. I think of how my infant son woke me every two hours just last night, and how his big sister chatters incessantly. This poem artfully reminds me that, as frustrating as it gets, I would not trade this noise for the silence, darkness, and hopelessness of the recurrent miscarriages I experienced before my miracle babies brought their voices into this world. Thank you again.


Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

June Face January 23, 2017 Mother, Daughter, Fem… January 23, 2017