There are several kinds of silence.

I’ve known quiet that is a terrible tool, leaving me disoriented and the victim of my own imagination. The kind of silence in “Speech is one symptom of affection”, by Emily Dickinson is a mature, caring, active choice. Not one that aims to manipulate or punish. Nor to attempt a self-made shell of protection.

Speech is one symptom of affection
And Silence one –
The perfectest communication
Is heard of none

Exists and it’s indorsement
Is had within –
Behold said the Apostle,
Yet had not seen!

When a child, I knew no other way to cope than to be silent when I was sexually molested at age nine. Fierce upheavals went on inside my mind and emotions, creating near-hallucinatory perceptions of the world around me. 

I became obsessed with a lot of things. One of them was the idea that silence could be anything other than harrowing. I find numerous, beautiful, evidence. “They sat tranquilly, side by side, in no hurry to begin the mangled business of communication. A slight breeze cooled their skin,” muses a character in The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker.

Self-hate has not been so much overcome by self-love as by the chipping away of my hatred of silence. The poem doesn’t claim there is ever perfect communication either in speech or silence. But, that, compared to speech, “… Silence one — ” way to show affection, is sometimes better. “The perfectest communication / Is heard of none”.

For an emotion to find its ratification by its self-authored authority, “Exists and it’s indorsement” / Is had within — ”, was life changing for me when I began to read poems like this one. Encouraged by the poem to trust the elements of my war within, looking around me for clues to a proper existence, I find I can listen to the imaginative and sometimes intelligent inner voices. 

It is no longer a minor miracle to discover myself enjoying what the poem recalls in the story of Jesus as predictor of spiritual inheritors of Thomas, another doubter. Love can be shared, though “Yet had not seen!” 

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

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