At the Poetry Reading
We quiet down to silence. The room quiets, except for a muffled snicker from the back. It’s quiet
in here now, deathly quiet in this room. The quietness of the room. Dead quiet. We can’t imagine
another room filled with a comparable number of people achieving this level of silence. We try
to imagine in the quiet. We try, we keep trying. We try, and we think, yes. Yes, we’ve imagined
it. We’ve imagined it now—a room filled with people, as quiet as this room. We imagined it,
only for a moment, but imagine it we did. Briefly we managed to imagine the quietness of this
room, as quiet as it is, measured against . . . replicated . . . happening . . . comparable . . . another,
no. No, it doesn’t seem possible. No, we haven’t imagined another room as quiet as this. And
now the host makes his announcements. He mentions poetry and we snicker and shift in our
seats. He announces events and we guffaw and chortle. He eggs us on and we applaud, we erupt
with applause. We shake the tables. We spill the coffee. We sip and clap. Sip tea, clap. We sip
tea and shift in our seats. We wipe the spill. We shift. We shake the tables. The host sips the tea.
He waits to egg us on. He straightens. He introduces the poet, the first poet of the evening. The
poet. The poet is here. The poet among us, is here and standing and meekly stepping forward.
The poet is meek. The poet is stepping forward. The host eggs us on. We shake the tables.
The meek poet steps forward. The poet embraces the host. (Secretly, the host eggs us on.) We shake
the tables. We spill the coffee. The host recedes. We wipe the spill. We sip the tea, now in
silence. We sip the tea, and the poet clears his throat. Clears his throat again, meekly. The meek
poet gathers. He straightens his papers and gazes from beneath his tilted brow. We quiet down to
silence, except for a snicker form the back of the room. The room quiets. The quietness of the
room naturally precludes our imagining any other room, filled with a comparable number of
people, as quiet as this. We quiet down. The poet, now gazing from beneath his tilted brow,
begins to read aloud…