Non sequitur

Roy Herndon Smith

The “complete,” the legitimately religious existence of [humanity], does not stand in a continuity but in the genuine acceptance and mastery of a discontinuity.
—Martin Buber

My mother, father, aunt, and uncle—”just us”—
talk on the train in an exquisite other
world of transitory time and space; the mood
of intimate solitude opens between . . .
but then sudden interrupting eavesdropping . . .
the glance, the mute decision to talk nonsense,

to seem to make, but really not to make, sense,
to fashion non sequiturs to protect “us”
against the non sequitur of eavesdropping,
expelling the discontinuous other,
or trying to . . . failing to . . . the mute between
remains full of an absent presence, the mood

of intimacy plagiarized by the mood
of seeming . . . we keep trying to make nonsense
of it, nonsense of the dark stealing between,
the dark overcoming, comprehending . . . us
cleaving . . . keep it light . . . break it up . . . this other . . .
we can’t not hear the silence . . . we’re eavesdropping . . .

No, that’s them, not us . . . everyone’s eavesdropping;
a conversation overheard makes a mood
we think we know, we must know, but they’re other . . .
the train careening through the night, through nonsense . . .
It dawns on us, it dawns in us—between us,
the conversation’s between us, they’re between

us—the night, the meaning that’s not—all’s between
us—we play the game, they do the eavesdropping,
we resume the conversation—about us,
but the revelation keeps cleaving the mood
of familiarity, leaving no sense
except eeriness, the unknown other

inhabiting the stillness; all is other,
the words dropping like exotic birds between
the creamy silences, tangible nonsense . . .
we’re dropping . . . who’s doing the eavesdropping?
There’s no them anymore, just this itchy mood,
something stealing under the skin between us.

You, air, sea, earth—the other I, eavesdropping,
find, before I was conceived, before this mood
of uncanny nonsense separated us.