The Cost and Quest of Silence
in “The Continuing Silence of a Poet” from Yehoshua’s The Continuing Silence of a Poet and “Momik” from Grossman’s See Under: Love


        Music is not found in the notes, but in the bars of rest. Silence has the power to resonate deeply in the human soul and communicate far more than mere words alone. Although both children in the two stories- “The Continuing Silence of a Poet” and “Momik”- suffered in the silence of their parents, they used their experiences to reconstruct their parents’ past, their values, and themselves. The silence also gave the children a vacuum in which their own potential was allowed to realize, virtually unchecked.

        Birds build nests for their eggs.

        There are vast differences between the two boys, but first let us examine the similarities. Both born after their parents’ trauma- either deciding to quit a lifelong pursuit or a violent uprooting from Over There- the two were isolated, with neither allied siblings nor friends. This meant the two were brought into worlds of eerie stillnesses, which were overhung with the aftershocks of lives torn apart.

        But the two worlds- and, indeed, the two boys- would prove to be very different. Yehosua created a world of quiet resentment and festering wounds while Grossman transplanted a shtettle of outwardly crazy neighbors. One boy was rather slow, the other sharp. Physical appearances were markedly different. But both boys suffered from their parents’ seeming inability to speak.

        Ducklings follow in a line behind their imprinted hero.   

The two boys never had anything explained in a way that satisfactorily taught them about the world, and they were forced to construct their own from the scraps and pieces they were able to glean from the adult world. With no guiding force, the boys were left on the doorstep of knowledge and both managed to build a reality from it, although this reality would probably be horrifying to their parents if they were privy to it. This is certainly the case for Momik, whose father slaps any idea of nostalgia for Over There from his hand. The poet is also repelled when he reads his son’s creation in the newspaper, something which only came about in spite of his best efforts to stop the boy’s attempts at poetry. It cannot be a coincidence that both events are results of the two pieces of personal information that fathers shared- the turnip lamps and the fact that he is a poet.

        The fathers, the mothers being negligible as one is dead and the other a mere extension of the father, both have ideas of what they do not want from their sons, yet neither find a way to communicate that other than hitting either the child- as the poet slaps the boy for destroying relics of his past- or the child’s creation- an homage to the old times his father so very briefly described. Both are the sons’ desires to reconstruct the fathers’ previous lives, to comfort the father and understand his place in the world, but more than that: to create an identity for themselves based upon a little boy’s traditional role model, his father.

        In a virtual vacuum, a human will grasp onto the crumbs he is given- prisoners in a Bastille make friends with rats, Ruth followed Naomi. With nothing else, one will adapt and create. The two boys in the stories created fantasy worlds around the small crumbs of past their fathers let slip- they created a present reality for them based upon their only true indicator of who they are, of what a man should be, of their lives as they knew it. The fathers’ inability to express directly to their sons resulted in their sons creating worlds which proved revolting to them from the small bits they were able to find for themselves. While their sons strove to understand, to emulate, their fathers are resigned to a position of disapproval and indeed rejection.

With nothing to imprint upon, the cygnet follows a duck and will hopefully live to reveal its own beauty.