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James Lilliefors

James Lilliefors is a poet, journalist, and novelist, originally from the Washington, D.C. area who now lives in Florida. His writing has appeared in Ploughshares, The Washington Post, The Adirondack Review, Door Is a Jar, Pulsebeat Poetry Journal, The Miami Herald and elsewhere. He is a former writing fellow at the University of Virginia.

A Different Kind of Silence

Her eyes stay with the crushed rabbit

in the road longer than I like,

as if she’s never seen a dead anything before.

And then it occurs to me: maybe she hasn’t.


Within seconds, my thoughts have moved on,

and I assume hers have, too.

Nothing is said.

We’re used to things disappearing.


Weeks later, she is walking with me downtown

when a homeless man grabs my arm.

I ignore him, we keep going. But her eyes

study my face, longer than I like.

Nothing is said.


Everything at her age is a lesson.

I want her to be good: person, friend,

student, citizen.

I told her once that silence can be

a good thing. But this is a different kind

of silence, an absence.


This evening, we sailed paper boats

together into the lake by where we live.

I, too, grew up without explanations,

and understand the lesson

that saying nothing sends.

The damage it can do.


But that’s another thought

I allow to disappear,

knowing the world will

absorb this silence, and

none will be the wiser for it.

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