On the Particulars of Absence

Margarita S. Padua
There’s nothing as round as this flat horizon
that stretches before us like a runner before
his run, nor anything as deep as this valley
that dips then rises like a ship sailing upon
rough seas. Lights go on and off in the distance,
pulled by switches pressed by the fingertips
of the thousands of people here whose names
we don’t know and never will. On the highway
cars, trucks, and buses travel at speeds considerably
lower than that of the speed of light; I catch them
with a glance, these machines with faces inside,
some of them with their radios turned up loud,
some of them talking through broken teeth and
busted lips, some of them silent like lost arguments.
And in the middle of this the only constant is in
everything that’s not there–the person gone missing,
murdered, killed, or who simply passed away
under the brevity of night; the building demolished,
the opportunity squandered, the debt that’s never
repaid and the people lost forever to wars and
the brutality of commerce. But also included
in the realm of absence is the punch never
thrown, the act of vengeance never realized,
the debt forgotten or forgiven, and all the triggers
never touched and left to rust. And as I aspire
toward the absence of unnecessary things, we
approach each other with empty hands, our palms
filled with lifelines and blank, open space
because there is bravery in our story, and
wisdom in the language with which we tell it.

-Jose Padua

Photograph of Margarita S. Padua was taken circa 1950.

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