Eight solitude poems by Gonzalinho da Costa

The themes of solitude and silence in the poetry of contemporary poet Gonzalinho da Costa are constructed around specific images, sounds, and analogies to concrete objects. This technique invites the reader to appreciate solitude and silence more tangibly and accessibly; a poetic bridge is thus presented, allowing the general reader to enter the perceptions of solitude and silence in more familiar terms. Gonzalinho da Costa cites among favorite poets Tu Fu, Sone No Yoshitada, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Wallace Stevens.

The poems are here selected by and reprinted with permission of the author. Original publication source is mentioned at the end of each poem. All rights reserved to the author.


I've begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.—Chaim Potok, The Chosen

Two o’clock in the morning.

How silent is the room…

Just before a motorcycle roars,
Chopping the air into jagged chips of din
Thrown round and round a flywheel,
Spiraling into the orifice of the outer ear,
Noisy swirling water inside a gurgling drain,
Bowling ball rolling heavily down wooden planks…

Then it fades...
Sawdust bursting in air,
Settling, a fine layer of manna,
Powdery film on the workshop floor.

You cannot hear anything again.

Silence is thick bread—
It lies on a plate and makes a crusty whisper
Only if perturbed by buttering.

Solid door of heavy beams tightly riveted by iron knobs,
Slammed shut and bolted,
Sealed even in its tiniest crevices,
Stands guard at the portal to the strange habitation of another world.

Originally published in Boston Poetry Magazine (September 4, 2014)


If a jar of wine is left in place a long time, the wine in it becomes clear, settled, and fragrant. … So you, too, should stay in the same place and you will find how greatly this benefits you.—Evagrius Ponticus, Philokalia

Solitude has come to roost on the window sill.
Flapping his wings, he alights,
Tilts his head slightly, left, right,
Looking inward, studying the past,
Investigating experience,
Peering at conscience,
Surveying the world.

Peripatetic, he asks the eternal questions.
Thoughts stream in as shafts of light between
Trees standing among truths freckled by shadows.
Answers, always partial
Always come,
Sparkling in a box of stars
Or glowing like the moon.

He attains a brook, freshly, soundlessly flowing
Uphill, roundly wholesome, utterly speckless,
Nestled atop high inaccessible
Mountain reaches.
Glassfuls of water
Bring not forgetting but understanding,
Memories revolving slowly,
Uncanny clarity of a magical goblet,
Bestowing peace, oil poured into wounds.

Originally published in Thought Notebook (April 9, 2015)

2:00 am

No dogs bark at this hour,
Desolate, an abandoned field burnt by the sun,
Dry shaving curls on a workshop floor long unswept.

I hear a motorcycle roar along a distant road,
Harsher than the sound of sawing wood.

Then silence thickens like concrete putty sealing
Joints and crevices of a room
Gradually deafening to the slightest vibration.

The world is asleep, I am awake.
Passing time heaves, a resting animal.

Now is the moment to descend into stillness
Deep as darkness enfolding underground rivers,
Delicate as a tissue broken by a cough.

I am solitary as a metal tool
Seeking the warm grasp of a skillful hand.

Before the smallest beginning of a noise like a flint flake
Tears into the fabric of the night,
I will take long draughts, cupping my hands
Descending as birds into the springs of tranquility.

Originally published in This Dark Matter (January 30, 2015)


Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.—Jean Arp, Arp on Arp

Construction is ongoing, banging away next door.
Metal clangs on metal, a pump machine loudly whirs.
Chop saws, screaming spirits, slice steel bars.
Sledgehammers thud solidly, breaking apart concrete.
Gravel fills apertures, ears, shuffling downward inside.

Dust and cement puffs, dry, burning in the sun,
Waft by, gray fumes at the volcano’s edge.
Mixers pour concrete, molten dough, into wooden molds.
Workers, perched birds, fashion steel bars into cages.
Walls grow layer by layer like a multistory cake.

Doors and windows appear as rectangular frames.
Jutting into the light, the first steps of a staircase ascend.
Drying walls glisten, soon to be lacquered with smooth finishes.
Day by day a building rises out of rubble, transforming—
A lady fastening a glittery brooch, a gentleman adjusting a silk tie.

Originally published in IthacaLit (September 27, 2014)

Sparkling river of silence…

Sparkling river of silence,
Traveler along a shadowy forest floor—
I drink deep draughts, lasting,
Of your overflowing stillness!

Tipping your goblet,
I taste your darkness
As floral wine
Swirling inside a crystal

And breathe in perfume.
Fingers of a spellbound existence
Stop my ears.
Awe, black thief, steals my voice.

Bereft of noise, I am
Transfixed as the blood moon
Hovering, windless night,
Balanced on the sword tip of time.

The world is motionless
As my spirit moves
And my stumbling heart is filled
By a presence … and quiet …

A quiet presence.

Originally published in On the Rusk, Issue 7 (Summer 2015)

Solitude is a healer…

Solitude is a healer of memories.
Gently, he rubs liniment on bruises inflicted
By verbal assaults, sharp words.
Cooling menthol soothes and spreads.

Originally published in On the Rusk, Issue 7 (Summer 2015)

To Gerald Manley Hopkins

Creation sings of the glory of God.
We do not hear it but see it
In brilliant interstices
Opening and closing
Of trees waving to and fro

When the world is radiant,
In glittering leaves,
Beaming stones,
Mountain streams, flashing
Metal foil flattened
By fists, smoothed
By hands.

The blind hear the song in the trees yearning to speak.
They inhale it in the attenuated wind,
Taste it in fruits bursting with water.
Bending down to touch the earth,
They become one with the beginning of all things,
Pushing roots into the soil,
Unfolding leaves,
Joining hands with the sun and the dead
Brought back to life.

Originally published in Blue Heron Review, Issue 3 (Winter 2015)

The condor wheels…

The condor wheels,
Currents, warm, rise,
Noon pulsates,
Shadows entice,

Stillness, a wing,
Silence beats the air,
Dusk is solace,
Dawn, fair,

Day transforms,
The moon allures,
Clocks chime—brightly!
—love endures,

Time, a dragonfly,
Solitude, a dove,
I am solitude,
You are love.

Originally published in Boston Poetry Magazine (February 5, 2015)