Denise Jarrott




In the river, there is an island made of silence and gravity. Its roots tether it

to the mute heart of the river. On the island, a man lives, collecting

berries in summer and bathing nude in view of those who pass on shining

red bicycles. This man has a bicycle also, but he does not lock it, even when


he ventures off the island to spread his message of squash baked in the sun, or the humble refusal of shoes. The message of silence. The message of gravity. He wears

a hat once meant for a child, which he stretched to fit his own child-head in

a basin of warm water. I once knew a woman who wore a shower curtain as


a scarf. Never did I stop loving her, even when she had rid herself of her long hair, which I later learned fell about her throat like ropes as she slept. She too utters the message of silence, the message of gravity. Lest I forget, the island belongs to no one. Not the man bathing in the cold water, not the woman carving faces onto beets. Nor


I, with my tin of coins, which I am completely terrified to open and count.

It was always lighter things I desired, things that let the wind bear them.

I neglected their descent.

It was easy.


When I knew the woman, I lived in the attic of an old house.

I slept on the floor and listened to mice scrape across the floor.

All is variation on a theme: on silence,

on gravity.


I did not sleep much that year. The woman I loved had a slender

neck, the woman I loved skipped class to jump trains.

I do not believe anymore in noise, in music, in the what I whisper each night into a hole in the wall. How long, then, will I


press my body against these impotent facts? The sky did not open for me. Instead, I was faced with a mouth, the drowned gape of silence. Forgive me, man who preaches only to the river, to the snakes, to the laws of physics. Forgive me, woman

who flees me in the shape of silence.                                                




There but for the gravity, the certain weight of being

alive, but for the rattle of those coins, but for

the body which, given that I am not asleep,

will fall if I give it to air.                                                                   


There but for the silence after the man eats a lizard,

its blood the absolute taste of itself. There but

for the creases made in tissue paper, of seams in dough, in envelopes,


There lies a distance of many days. I will not go to the island

where the man coaxes water to carry bread for him. I am only

here to taste the very last of it. Here there is much. Here I am nothing.

I am here, there lies necessity.