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The Silent Professor
It starts with words, with language displaced to the ear
And then to the brain, and finally by the mind. Meaning is thus
Distilled into something else entirely. An emotion?
Yes, an emotion, but more, and less: a nothing in between
More and less. The words of the silent professor are
At home only after their echo is gone.
Names, dates, and ideas of some import
Are scribbled on the board to be copiously recorded
By reluctant scribes, mainly. The great thoughts are
Thus transmitted in the hope that passages may become
Rites — rites both quiet and quieting.
The case, after all, can be made that din and jinn are one.
A question from the class! The silent professor
Twirls a piece of chalk between his fingers as he speaks
To the issue, first to this side and then that, befriending
Both God and devil alike. His words surround,
Caress the question, sounding out beguiling noises.
Tight, attentive faces signal half-truths gotten.
Listen. He must have said it ten thousand times,
Overspeaking the case. Yes, at term’s end
The written trial presumes that listening has been done,
But listening is not the same as hearing, and hearing
Is the deeper of the two. Hear the texts. Hear the giants sing.
Hear the music of the words after their echo is gone.
On the surface of things, the silent professor must practice
An articulate craft. He must pretend to tame the whirlwind and
Compel his students to pronounce and then memorize its name.
Appending datum to datum, he marks the illusions
That men call knowledge. Knowledge is where it starts:
But where it ends, no one can say.
© Randall R. Scott ~ December 1998