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This poem is taken from PN Review 6, Volume 5 Number 2, January - March 1979.

Two Poems Ian McMillan

THE LONG SILENCES

These silences are longer than a piece of string,
like an old proverb whose words have been stretched to death.
Speaking to you is like stepping over a moth on the stairs,
and the long silences move across the room like fog.

You are opposite me, even when you sit beside my face.
The Consul's Wife, in Under the Volcano,
lifts her eyes to the ceiling and sees him through a bottle,
as men trapped in a submarine are watched by a frond of
                                                    seaweed,
or balloonists are unnoticed by steeplejacks who drop their
                                                   sandwiches
and look down to a man pointing up and shouting.

The long silences ought to be broken
by the discovery of a print in the sand
or even, in an empty bus shelter, a dry sentence.
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