The presence of absence

(for Susan.  I'm not sure how we found
or find ourselves in this conversation,
but here, perhaps, we find our selves--
unwittingly, unbeknownst, often un-
awares--and this conversation continues
to elucidate the borders of loss,
this periphery of impermanence,
this presence of absence.)

this emptiness is not a substance
or a non-substance but a thing 

or a non-thing.  this emptiness 
has a name, a place and a form.

when we speak of it, we speak 
not of emptiness but of an emptiness, 

a singular vacancy that 
inhabits a place, a space 

in an inner landscape
like a deep canyon where 

nothing ever happens any 
more, not even weather.


and this is how it happens.  an empty 
rumble echoes in an emptiness. 	

a space finds room to breathe
and the room finds space 

to live again in the empty 
rooms of another, and these 

emptinesses are much the same.  
they are filled with the same nots,

the same uneasy intervals
bound by different chords,

threads that thrum in the void,
the same void, the same un-

this-ness — the same— and these 
emptinesses speak to each other 

across the fullness of the world, 
through the things we cling 

to and avoid and we 
color these things and

we build them up around 
us and we call them memory

and they are never enough.

6 thoughts on “The presence of absence

  1. This is INSPIRED.

    Absolutely amazing piece, Johnny. You understand emptiness, and you gather it up in your arms and spill it out onto the lap of whoever’s reading. I’ll be thinking of this poem even weeks from now – in the dark and the quiet, all tangled up in my non-places.


    • Thank you so much Natalie.
      “…gather it up in your arms and spill it out onto the lap of whoever’s reading”
      Especially for that line. I love how you put that.

      Yes…think of it when you are joined by those people from the other side of the world….they will make good company.


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