The Silence of Old Men

by Thomas Davis

 As old men sink into their silence, words
Become entangled in the memories
And moments that are like a flock of birds
So dense in time and space they start to freeze
The meanings that an old man means to say,
Or be, or clarify to those who’d listen
As if he still had thoughts that might convey
Some sense beyond the silence of his person.

Inside the living room I watch his eyes.
I feel inside myself and try to hear
The silence as its heaviness denies
Old age’s bucketful of pains and fear —

And as I watch I know the old men in their silence,
Their frozen faces and their look of patience.

4 Comments

Filed under poems, Poetry, Published Books

4 responses to “The Silence of Old Men

  1. Another masterful piece, Thomas. The silent frustrations of the old men are clear here (and I somehow empathize with the weight they’re feeling…the pain and despair). Well-crafted as always!

  2. extrasimile

    There is something I can’t quite put my hands on in this (once again) wonderful sonnet. The way the sentences collide with their verbs?—whatever that might mean. Of course the reference is to ‘old men’ in the first line. It then changes to ‘an old man’. The way old men sink into their ‘silence’`, do all old men sink into the same silence? Or do the sink into a particular silence, one of their own making? One immediately says the latter is the case, but I’m not so sure. There is something about silence that does not encourage counting—rather like sand or flour or mud—and you can sink into all of them. The feel though of that this poem describes is rather like Parkinson’s. Then in the third octave a true Volta, a turn that turns this sonnet inside out
    Inside the living room I watch his eyes.
    I feel inside myself and try to hear
    The silence as its heaviness denies
    Old age’s bucketful of pains and fear —
    The narrator of the poem tries to enter imaginatively into what really can’t be imagined. The other mind problem dramatized and made real. if you can’t know what is any one’s mind, not even the most sympathetic—a spouse, or one of one’s children—not even an identical twin—how are you going to penetrate this deep chilling silence. My mother spent her last few days in this state. My wife’s father spent a few weeks there—fixing to die. The hospice people tried to make some sense out of it, but didn’t really succeed. I would change that last line to read ‘Their faces frozen and their look of patience’, by the way
    And as I watch I know the old men in their silence.
    O Thomas, if only it were that simple.

  3. Caused me to look within rather than being directed to consider the thoughts of other old men. (Although I prefer to see myself as ageing rather than old yet. 🙂 )

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