ceramic sound. Cups clink
accompanied by a sigh;
pot lids rattle with impatience.
A deaf couple signs, their waving low to the
table and tender, like the waves of a quiet lake
lap the shore.
A man with thick fingers
sits across from a tousled
woman who pays. His hard eyes wander
the aisles and tables. Hers flit
to and from him, checking. But,
the deaf couple does not see;
their eyes are rooted deeply in the other,
like the roots of a whispering cottonwood
that searched for water below the dry creek bed and found it.
A gray-haired man with jowls and glasses
reads the crackling paper he holds in front of him
like a shield. The woman with him reads the message
written by the back and begins, "You always,"
interrupted by, "I never...but you,"
and turns away. But
the deaf couple does not hear;
their inner ears tuned to an outer silence,
as different in sound as the sibilant wheat fields
of Kansas are from the raucous streets of New York --
a golden silence
that leaves room for eyes to hear
the mouth of the hand of another.
by Jennifer Henderson
First published in Time of Singing July 1998