I was thinking about silence and integers, how always
the first questions on the math part of achievement tests
were about whole numbers, integers, and natural numbers.
How integers go across zero, into the negatives.
How silence can be more than silent, become absorptive
on the back end of sound.
I have a satellite dish
that absorbs noises, laughs, and people’s gestures.
I use it to hide,
and defeat the world.
It works when I remember it’s there.
It goes the length of my face,
or maybe my whole body,
because I feel something walking along with me.
I’m so silent that silence becomes something else,
and I feel very peaceful.
It is different than holding my breath.
The satellite dish is eating
the people. But it doesn’t hold them in.
The dish always breathes them out again.
Like a pillow. It holds many secrets
past zero, on the negative side of sound.
When I wake up, the pillow has its own scent
and I’m afraid to ask it where we’ve been.
At the zoo, the snow leopards sleep in the afternoon sun.
Their spots are indistinct. I can’t tell
which way they are lying.
The owls also sleep, in low cages at “Birds of Prey.”
They must know about silence
and strollers, cameras, and pizza.
The night must be so different here.
The paths appearing as paths
because they’re empty.
Nellie Bridge grew up in Sequim, Washington and now lives in Brooklyn. Her poems have appeared in KNOCK, Painted Bride Quarterly, New Delta Review, and RealPoetik! She was a finalist for the Pleiades book prize in 2008.