It occurred to me around dusk
after I had lit three candles
and was pouring myself a glass of wine
that I had not uttered a word to a soul all day.
Alone in the house,
I was busy pushing the wheel in a mill of paper
or staring down a dark well of ink-
no callers at the door, no ring of the telephone.
But as the path lights came on,
I did recall having words with a turtle
on my morning walk, a sudden greeting
that sent him off his log splashing into the lake.
I had also spoken to the goldfish
as I tossed a handful of pellets into their pond,
and I had a short chat with the dog,
who cocked her head this way and that
as I explained that the dinner was hours away
and that she should lie down by the door.
I also talked to myself as I was typing
and later on while I looked around for my boots.
So I had barely set foot on the path
that leads to the great villa of silence
where men and women pace while counting beads.
In fact, I had only a single afternoon
of total silence to show for myself,
a spring day in a cell in Big Sur,
twenty or so monks also silent in their nearby cells-
a community of Cameldolites,
and order so stringent, my guide told me,
that they make the Benedictines,
whom they had broken away from in the 11th century,
look like a bunch of Hells Angels.
Out of a lifetime of running my mouth
and leaning on the horn of the ego,
only a single afternoon of being truly quiet
on a high cliff with the Pacific spread out below,
but as I listened to the birdsong
by the window that day, I could feel my droplet
of silence swelling on the faucet
then dropping into the zinc basin of their serenity.
Yet since then-
nothing but the racket of self-advertisement,
the clamor of noisy restaurants,
the classroom of proclaimers,
the little king of the voice having its say,
and today the pride of writing this down,
which must be the reason my pen
has turned its back on me to hide its face in its hands.
–Billy Collins from Ballistics