Eric Robert Nolan


Syllables so soft – Her voice issues
Across leagues, a sea of distance
And circumstance –
A salve of utterances.

Soft sounds that rouse me
From the disquieted, great gray and stony places
Where I walk in dreams:
Gray dusks beneath
A sky the color of gunmetal,
A pariah’s path
On monochrome roads aside colorless oceans,
Pallid mountains, their pale peaks in the ether
Of an indolent stratosphere.

Those ashen angles in vaulting great gray heights
With their wan and interminable reach are
Every bit as neutral as they are vast.

To passersby, the blank rock face
Is ever indifferent.
Its answer is always the same in the silence –
In the washed out, light-colored soot hues
Of its own indifference.
It always echoes back.
Its answer only mocks our query:

“Why me?”
“Why this?”

Is it a kind of hell
We each inevitably face
To query the blank rock face and find
Only our own question?

Politely returned
In our very own voice but now redundant?
Like a white elephant gift?
Like a Prodigal Son returned at our own doorstep –
But brain damaged now, drooling and smiling, a victim of an accident perhaps:
An idiot mimicking inquiries?
He sneers our queries back.
His eyes shine with vague electricity;
The curled left lip in his disordered countenance
Is a question mark.

Or is our question a stillbirth –
Our own seed is returned to us,
We see our own features in the still, pale and almost-gray, too quiet face,
A face as quiet as stone?
Steals our own voices to haunt us.

Is it His final joke
That these blank rock faces
Are mirrors for our queries
That only ask back?

Sartre was wrong.
Hell isn’t other people.
Hell is our own voice.
Hell is our own question.

Wrong, too, was Nietzsche – the Abyss looks back, yes,
But the rocks… the rocks…
The rocks speak.

Matthew? Wrong.
Ask and ye shall grieve.

Yet Her syllables
Far reaching, find me even here among the rocks.
Are the rocks betrayed
When hijacked echoes connect
A Lover’s voice?
Can the slate-gray shades of colorless slopes
Resent their soft conscription,
Their momentary slavery to empathy?

Can she even guess
How her soft voice
Confounds the ageless, gray and indolent stone at dusk?

Could anybody fail to love
The owner of a voice that is
Anathema to grief?

Can she ever even know
How well I love her?

Can she ever even know
How well I love her?

Can she?

Can she?