…the music did not die,
but the memory of “Music as It Had Been” passed away
when the present generation slipped from consciousness
and body language and facial expressions bespoke the tone
in this wordless new world.
People began to notice nuances,
for their attention was undivided
by the flapping of flip-flops,
the pitter-pat of raindrops,
the ringing alerts on their electronic devices.
Every wrinkle was remembered;
eye colors were remembered in detail.
Babies born would still cry and babble,
their words without form, but not void,
for everyone spoke the same language now.
Laughter still poured out like candy from a broken piñata,
but the art of language was sometimes lost in translation.
Dexterity in fingers became precise,
like the words that no longer were.
Bead workers beaded with ease.
The sound of a pin dropping went unnoticed.
being an antique form of communication,
an ancient language—
wallpapered bathrooms in Bed and Breakfasts,
even as stringed instrument cases became bassinets
for silver-spoon fed babies.
Cellos were fashioned into lamps,
violins, a curious sort of wall ornament,
and harps, sculptures.
Clarinets, oboes, and piccolos became vases
for flowers whose fragrances sang.
Doorbells became door lights that lit up a room.
Hymns became poetry,
and sermons flashed on a screen.
Movement became the music,
tho’ everywhere sounded like everywhere else.
The great opera houses became stages
for the art of the dance.
Sparklers replaced applause,
and auditoriums were lit up like white dwarves—
a candlelight vigil on carbonation.
Partygoers would place their hands on pianos at dinner parties,
and the musicians remaining from this sensory apocalypse,
would play the notes they knew from bygone days,
for humankind craved vibrations.
Kinetic activities became the new aural pastime.
Musicians were prized for their gift,
for they set the ground on fire with the pulses of their notes—
at decibels not loud enough to shatter eardrums,
but champagne flutes.
Barefoot, the people could feel what they could not hear.
Children outpaced their parents with their communication skills,
becoming the teachers—
ushering in these latter days,
for the world had adapted to this silent spring.
The clatter of teacups,
the clink of teaspoons,
the shatter of glassware,
the tinkle of silverware,
The taps from dance shoes were pressed into the plaster of the past,
castanets became Christmas ornaments,
and guitar picks and drumsticks ceased to exist.
We no longer shouted to our loved ones in the next room,
for we were already there.
There were smiles and soundless laughter,
for there was joy after a time,
even in the absence of the musical that is life,
bubbling up like an effervescent tablet in a too-full glass of water—
a celebratory champagne.
Those carried away by the waves could not shout,
so mothers watched their children as they swam in the surf.
People began to see things they had missed—
the envy that could not be covered up with flattery,
the lust that declarations of friendship could no longer dispel,
the insecurity of the extrovert who talked to make himself heard.
Radio waves straightened as if blown-dry,
beeps on heart monitors shifted to switchboards reminiscent of a Lite-Brite,
and horns on cars became useless except to scare away the strays.
Dogs became the eyes and ears for the blind,
and fewer went without a home;
fewer children were born,
for so much of the world had lost their collective mind.
Those with schizophrenia heard voices they could not understand—
a scramble in the yolk that was inside their head.
The gestures, the word-scratch on a tablet by a kind nurse,
telling them the voices did not exist,
could not cast out the guttural demons.
In churches, there was the speaking in tongues—
seen, but not heard—
like the blind,
the little children who woke up in the night.
There were telepathic dreams—
visions without voice.
No one heard what they no longer had to.
Some turned to fists and stones,
for the right sign could not be found
to express what filled them up inside.
The day when all the cuckoos in clocks went crazy,
church bells clanged cacophonously,
and thunder boomed impending doom,
was the dawn of The Quiet Earth.
It was the last great symphony
before all went silent,
but not forgotten till the last Hearer died.
Originally published in The Kilgore Review, Pensacola State College, 2017