Natalie Goldberg Card #5

Give me four memories of silence



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I’m working through the Natalie Goldberg deck of writing subjects. Each card in this world-renowned author and zen teacher’s Deck contains a writing topic on one side and a short lesson on the reverse, delivered in Natalie’s honest, heartfelt urgency. “This is my wish for you:” she says. “[T]hat you take these cards, grab the topic on one side and write, write, write . . . Remember no good or bad. Just words on the page.”

As I rummaged through my life for four memories of silence, it dawned on me that there are so many kinds of silence. Millions of permutations of this mystery we call silence. I chose four of them. People silence. Land silence. Book silence. Death silence.

People Silence

I experienced one of my most shameful, heartbreaking silences in the eighth grade. This is a poem I wrote about it:

Girls Bathroom

In 1968, I didn’t have enough up top
for even a training bra. But the Boy
trusted me to slip his folded note onto

the Girl’s cafeteria tray, and she trusted me
to carry her cryptic answer back for him to ponder.
He did. Then scribbled something under her writing.

I delivered the missive back. She read it,
no expression, flipped her hair, bussed her tray,
and walked away. Her posse in tow.

They all walked slow till they
were out of sight and hearing.
Then they ran to the girls’ bathroom.

The Girl read the exchange, and her posse
laughed with her, harsh little Coke bubble giggles
of faux joy and fresh jealousy. I was on the outer edges.

One miraculous day, I found a folded note of my very own
in my desk. It smelled of English Leather. It was in an envelope.

The frayed frills of passion — this page written fast
and ripped from a spiral notebook — it blazed in my hands.




Novelist. Poet. Musician. Buddhist. Quilter. Animal lover. Visible grownup. Hidden child. Secret dancer when all alone. Makes good bread.