‘Tacit’ by Kate Wakeling


Prospero: No tongue! All eyes! Be silent. [soft music]
(The Tempest, Act IV, Sc. I)

In the beginning came the hush:
nub of his rule, the anti-ruckus,
my quiet kept to forge his crown.
This was a daughter tutored mute,
speech no sooner to bloom than be swaddled.
He saw me stitch the peace deep into my cheeks,
gobble down the word
and keep my trap shut tight.

But sound was this one’s ministry:
how he skulled and beggared,
how he wrought rule from stagnancy
to whip the heavens red.
To bid this child dumb was too brisk, too plain.
To grip his realm was to fix
and furnish a daughter with noise:
to make her sound.

And so, turning nine,
I woke to bells hooked from the hems,
bronze blinking at my ankles,
a daughter cast for the day as his chime.
The next morning brought looping strings
hooked across the arms, winds instructed
to duck through this, his prone little harp.
Before the third night sank
I caught his drift: speechless,
I was to take up the tune.

From here, I plucked gut strings,
puckered at trumpets,
trilled across flutes, pipes, keys.
Captive as an echo, I bred my faculties
as he sat deep in his chair
in blank pride, in his maestro’s assurance
that he ruled and ruled and ruled.

And for a time I waited for an end,
for when he’d let the sounding stop
and bid me surface a thought.
Instead, I saw my skin begin to thicken
drawing stiff across a ring of bones,
and I knew, in not so many beats,
I’d soon be just his drum.
[First published in pamphlet The Rainbow Faults (The Rialto, 2016)]
Kate Wakeling is a writer and ethnomusicologist based in Oxford. Her poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies including Magma, The Rialto, Oxford Poetry, 3:AM magazine, The Guardian, The Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt) and The Forward Book of Poetry 2016 (Faber & Faber). Her debut pamphlet, The Rainbow Faults, is published by The Rialto and is available from their online shop.