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Silence is Not a Virtue

Silence is Not a Virtue

Silence is NOT a virtue. I don’t know much about life but I know a lot about love. I don’t know how to split atoms, I don’t split body from mind, but I’ve split many infinitives and I split my gut laughing. O hell, I’ve been splitting fine hairs with tradition for years. I don’t know much about life but I’ve learned a lot about loss and I know I have to speak the truth as I see it just to survive.

Tell your love, tell your sorrow, all the days of your life, the nights, too! Ring out a true love story of your own from doorstep to doorstep. Express your glands, express your joy and your pain, howl the truth from out of your personal closet right into the hallway. You can cry if you need to: nothing grows without water!

I get all upset the way people hush themselves like it’s a virtue sometimes.  Casey said in her parents’ house they never got angry, they ate all the food on their plates, their closets were tidy, they just never spoke about it. She said there was nothing to speak of, it’s just that her brother was playful. He just got carried away, he was boyishly curious, that’s the natural way he expressed it, his first stirrings of manhood. She said there was nothing to speak of, she had no way to stop it, she was not always so strong or so big or so butch or so brave.

She said it doesn’t affect her adult life today, no, not at all, so there’s nothing to speak of, she keeps it all in the family. She said, it’s all relative, really, so there’s nothing to speak of, it’s not like real incest, so there’s nothing to speak of. It’s just all in the family, it’s all relative, really, so there’s nothing to speak of, it’s all relative, she said, it was only her brother, so there’s nothing to speak of, it’s all relative, she said, it’s all relative.

I may not know that much about life but I’ve been well tutored in loss and I know a lot about love and about the relative ways different people withhold it and snatch it away. But if there’s nothing to speak of then all words lose their meaning and I can never express it how sometimes she’s touched me and I’ve wanted to touch her, my Pagliacci sister, her practiced immaculate presence, her subterranean silence.

But If there’s nothing to speak of words can never express it, how the joy she unleashes flings open my floodgates, but we never expressed it, relatively speaking. Still  she touches me whenever she wants to and my own desperation allows it and wants it but she will not let me touch her in return, despite that the fit of our bodies strike sparks on the guilty blanket of need that we borrow. But if there’s nothing to speak of then all words lose their meaning and I’m stripped of all currency save for the stealth of her tongue and her kindling caresses and the way she moves into me with such rough sudden need that it hurts like a scalding but I only steam through my pores and my eyes start to rain, and later I staunch the flow of my bleeding after I stagger back home to my own lonely bed, sprawled out like a swastika, appropriately crimson, and I wonder and tap my only true gift and begin to write about the types of love we give and gift and take and endure and inflict.

But if there’s nothing to speak of I can never express it, at least not to Casey, how the heartache she’s known and the heartbreak she’s sown still fling open my floodgates and I’ve wanted to touch her, to heal her, but if there’s nothing to speak of I can never express it, how much I’ve ached just to tell her the many ways that I’ve loved her but she will not let me touch her and only shakes her head sadly and pulls me aside but every graze of her razor sharp lips leaves another keloid scar on the topographical map of my body and each one reads goodbye and goodbye until the next time… or never.

But sometimes even now just the memory of the stunning sound of her voice like a clarion bell when she forgets herself for even a moment and lets loose from her studious anchors and starts genuinely laughing out loud still sets me free!

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  • lil says:

    WOW…ILY Wallis

  • K Johnston says:

    A powerful, stripped to the bone piece of writing, that leaves me feeling her deep ache, her pain, her longing to break free – from constraint to laughter, to love, to voice. And what a voice!

  • Gwen says:

    Thanks so much for this. It seems I can’t get enough of Stern’s writing. Her line – “oh hell, I’ve been splitting fine hairs for years…” Posing a break in our walls of personal armor – She doesn’t know some things but she knows longing and loneliness and these are everything. Powerful imagery and emotion. Keep this woman on the front pages of our minds and hearts.


  • A. Deen says:


  • poetnoise says:


  • Jaguar says:

    One of my favorite longstanding expressions is “Silence = Death” … I came across this saying when I first came out. Initially I didn’t really understand what it meant but over time I have become quite intimate with its true meaning.

    Thank you, Wallis Stern for writing/sharing this piece. As always, I innately enjoy your wondrous words as they cause me to think and think hard about the past, present and future.


  • Nancy McAvoy says:

    Yes, I did submit it, but you did not publish it.

  • Kimberly says:

    Wow! I keep reading “Silence is Not a Virtue” over and over again. It really hits home for me. I really like this story. Thank you for posting this. What a talented writer!

  • Luc says:

    Im captivated by your sense of such deep love and compassion. You practice the lessons so well and facilitate healing in so many. I think more than you realize. Im honored that you share your vulnerability as we become stronger together.
    As I always say we are all related and in more ways that we know (relative). Never stop writing, Ever~

  • Sonia says:

    dense and strong, my dear. inner battle, pretty common, yet hard to grasp by many, especially in words, which is another constant fight but “if there’s nothing to speak of I can never express it” :)) right. and the choice of simpler wording makes it the more impressive. thanks.

  • epochalipsnow says:

    Epochalips gets so many spam comments, its overwhelming… sometimes comments get accidentally deleted that aren’t spam. Please resubmit if it doesn’t appear after a few days! Thank you.

  • Nancy McAvoy says:

    You have startled me out of my complacency. I began reading the piece, immediately expecting something at least equal to her to her usual good work, even remarkable based on experience. So, I was in a certain mindset. I stood even momentarily and then realized I was in for a bumpy ride. The words jolted me, threw me around, tossed my emotions and bumped them up against each other. On my toes, I watched my step and continued. Something remarkable was being revealed to me in a most unusual way. I was learning something private about someone most private through the observations of someone most private. I became embroiled in something I had not experienced in love — something complicated I wasn’t sure I would understand, something almost incomprehensible from the inside. By the end of the piece, I too was begging for it to let me go. Even if the author tells me I totally missed the point, I didn’t miss one of the most extraordinary bump and grind through the English language I have ever experienced.

  • Wallis Stern says:

    Nancy, I can assure you that you certainly did not “miss the point.” In fact, you nailed it right on its proverbial head and very astutely at that.
    I would like to thank every single one of you for taking the team to read my work and for your kind and insightful comments.
    This has been a very difficult year for me, both emotionally and physically. If it were not for you, individually and collectively, I have no idea how I would have survived and come through such a heavy veil of darkness into the warmth of the light. I do not know who all of you are but you mean the world to me.
    I shall be making a public announcement shortly concerning the forthcoming publication of my book, THE LOVE CHILDE WALLIS STERN: A THINLY VEILED GENRE-DEFYING FAUX AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL QUEER BILDUNGSROMAN. Until then I invite you all to visit with me on my FaceBook wall and on LinkedIn, as well.
    Please don’t forget to thank Robin Lowey for her patience and dedication. I owe her a great debt myself that I doubt I can ever repay. She has helped me to be granted and to receive the greatest gift one can possibly hope for, writer or not. IT IS THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE THAT HAS SUSTAINED AND REVIVIFIED ME THROUGH THiS MOST DIFFICULT AND CHALLENGING PERIOD OF MY ADULT LIFE! IT IS THE LOVE THAT ONLY WOMEN-LOVING-WOMEN LIKE ALL OF US HERE HAVE A SO TENDER AND GENEROUS A MONOPOLY ON.
    Thank you with all my heart. You are all so beautiful to me!
    Keep on shining, magnificent ones!
    Love and Light to all of you from all of me, xWallis