Your absence has gone through me
like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
- W.S. Merwin

This poem was featured as part of the MTA's Poetry in Motion series.

A most maddening thing about absence is the silence. One becomes accustomed to the noises that beings make, and when they are removed, the texture of a place is changed. You think you hear their footfall, or the high pitch of their voice, but you're wrong. New sounds take their mark which were always there, uncovered from the hush; they are unfamiliar and foreign. You can try to mask that silence with music, or television, but it creeps around behind your back, waiting for you to go into another room, or to bed, or come back home from a trip to the store.

My ears are starving, though they'll grow accustomed to their new diet.

Another confounding aspect of absence is its manifest lack of activity. Oh I have plenty to do... things I've not had the time for, things for myself, things that I love. However the routine, or lack thereof, is terribly altered to the point that your concept of the passage of time is jumbled. When you're on holiday in a strange new place, time stretches out, mercifully. When you're alone, it does the same. Where before you had no time to yourself, and relished a moment without a single thing to be done, now you have more than you know what to do with.

My hands seem to think they are too idle, though they'll find grace in their work.

And how, how did these people take up so much space as to leave this cavernous void in their wake? Even if they're quite small they're capable of taking up an immense amount of area, it seems. Rooms become so big, you look around them in wonder... having never realized how expansive they were. And the space in between you and another, which sometimes is none at all, like small arms around my neck, becomes profoundly absent.

My skin is acutely aware of the air around it which lacks the drink of proximity. It will learn to breathe this thin ether.

This absence is my choice. I only get it in small doses. I was mentally prepared for it; I know that I need it. It's just shocking to realize that, in fact, you've never actually been alone, and to find that its effect upon your physical person is so pronounced.

It's peculiar.

Ab"sence (#), n. [F., fr. L. absentia. See Absent.]


A state of being absent or withdrawn from a place or from companionship; -- opposed to presence.

Not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence. Phil. ii. 12.


Want; destitution; withdrawal.

"In the absence of conventional law."



Inattention to things present; abstraction (of mind); as, absence of mind.

"Reflecting on the little absences and distractions of mankind."


To conquer that abstraction which is called absence. Landor.


© Webster 1913.

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