Silence Assignments

1. As mathematics and intercourse are, as yet, the only universal languages, trace pi to the thousandth significant digit into the insides of your lover’s elbows.
2. Construct cognitive errata while in conversation. When you say sparrow, mentally mean barn-door. When you say shy, mean the darkest paint of the smallest Russian doll’s smallest eyelash. When you say blade of the knife, mean stab of the no.
3. Investigate the silence of objects. A clock with its second hand removed will not tick. Pull cake pans from the oven before the egg timer ends in buzz.
4. Be born to a silver-tongued father whose talk takes the whole room’s attention. Be born to a mother who binds her lips like a Chinese foot and practice her practiced inaction.
5. Silence crowds with a gesture. Putting your finger into strangers’ buttonholes may seem extreme but could be a necessary measure.
6. Be born to a family who notices dust on the stair rail, pictures tipped a degree askew, the rubber gloves for washing dishes on the wrong side of the cabinet door. With these distractions, they will not notice you.
7. Study, intensely and on your knees, the still preverbal baby. Suck your thumb. Hide, as the middle sibling has always done. Or do as the eldest sibling does: Run.
8. Use your mouth for other functions (ex. In the right weather, the tongue-bed’s wet enough to make into a fashionable planter. Grow Hybrid China roses. Become a voracious pruner.)
9. In the right light, you could lick closed empty envelopes and consider these communiqués “letters.”
10. Eat glue, cement, tar in its still wet state. Anything that, after chewing, will keep your mouth shut.
11. Cultivate your stutter as the prophets have done.
12. Try. Try to apologize. Try to apologize for run for run for running. Try to apologize for running with a box of cottonballs placed under your tongue.
13. Lay with your pillow square on top of the gun. (The birds will not wake you, their beaks an inadequate form of shovel.) If you die in your dream, check to see if, when awake, you are still dumb.

M. Ann Hull has had work published in Barrow Street, Mid-American Review, 32 Poems and Quarterly West amongst others. She has won the Ed Ochester Award for Poetry and the Academy of American Poets Prize. She is a former poetry editor of Black Warrior Review and holds an MFA from the University of Alabama.