A palpable stillness descended, but felt a bit awkward.
Crowds tend to feel ambushed when compelled
to bow their heads and temporarily shut up.
From childhood, we all resent being told to keep quiet —
it seems like an artificial imposition, almost a punishment.
Now everyone paused to observe that moment of silence,
as if it was some exotic creature rarely seen in these parts.
Like Sunday morning worshipers dutifully spending
their hour a week at church, we privately contemplated
whatever comes next: brunch, a televised sports contest,
perhaps a few minutes getting to know one’s children.
Our silences are mostly filled with thoughts, so everyone
pretended to be pondering theirs in a kind of spiritual way
that would be approved if they could somehow be heard aloud.
Eventually, the tedium began to seem interminable,
testing our tolerance and resolve in an almost cruel way.
If truth be told, nobody ever really has that much to say,
but it was the principle of the thing, so to speak.
Soon there was a concerted rustling about, as if we’d all
had enough, and the impatient squirming was a signal
from the collective to abandon the enforced silence.
When the moment had finally passed, everyone breathed
a great sigh of relief, but still had nothing of interest to say.
Though the preachers go on in praise of silence,
we would just as soon get it out of the way.