A professor told me once that in order to write, one must learn not to write. One must understand the significance of not writing. Just as one understands winter. The snows fall, and the fields lie fallow so that spring may follow.
Sometimes, he said, he sits in front of a blank page for hours and hours, day after day. He sees it as a snow covered field. He sees the birds fly overhead, and the clouds. Poems will surely come, he says. He can never say when.
A woman sits alone at her desk practicing the art of not writing. It’s quiet in her home. Her husband is at work. Her children are at school. From her office window, she can see that her neighbor is out in her garden, watering flowers. She listens to a woodpecker tapping at the outside of her house. The phone rings. The dog scratches at the other side of the door, and whines, begging to come in. The dog walks in and out of her poem, its long tail wagging and knocking over a vase of flowers sent by a secret lover.
The professor and the woman are both sitting at their desks, staring out into space. Neither of them is writing. They are both practicing the art of not writing. They are both waiting for the poem that has never been written. The poem that is like the silence in a Zen painting. Like the lover they never had. In the morning news they read of children buried in mudslides. They read of travelers stranded in Denver without their luggage. Of masked men who broke into mansions and left no fingerprints and stole no jewels, no money, no artwork. What were they looking for in the carpeted homes of strangers?