At the heart of all our ponderous work
is a loud silence. Some stillness
in the midst of the busy. As when
the teacher says,
Now write for fifteen minutes,
and the class falls to, bent
over their notebooks — you can hear
the scritch-scratch of pens, a last whispered
flirt or giggle, the jiggle
of butts against seats, and, far away,
the sigh of cars on the freeway.

If you listen, you can hear
the pregnant woman dully sucking ice
halfway through an eighteen-hour labor.
You can hear the guy on the stalled power mower
breathe a moment before cursing and wiping his face.

In the end, all our striving
comes to nothing. You knew that
already. And in the middle. You knew that too.

The secretary, lulled into trance by the screen saver’s hum,
gazes out the window, twisting her earring,
and forgets for a moment all the details
of her upcoming wedding,
forgets even the name of her fiancé.

All our lives
we hear the roar
of that silence and we thrash against it,
as the baby in the womb thrashes
toward the waiting nipple and the enormous light.