Listening in silence

Anders Persson was born with a knack to be an engineer;
he was cursed to understand mechanics, thermodynamics,
electromagnetism and even math.

At eleven he had built himself a ham-radio
but he only listened and never talked; his first love affair was
the reverse Polish notation of his HP calculator.

He could draw a perfect circle with his compass and
divide it fairly with a ruler. He listened well but never talked.
Anders worked at night to pay for school but spent it all
on his brand new personal computer.

Anders never went to parties, but one day he found
his way into a cubicle where he worked designing missile
guiding systems. He observed it all but never spoke.

Anders Person’s hair turned gray and he never counted years
until the day he was made redundant and realized
he could retire doing nothing. He was used to silence
and fit himself inside a cubicle at home. Blended with the walls.

He started counting days but when
he’d counted up to hundred one he ceased to count,
and sat, waiting to be carried out.

They say it was the smell that made the neighbor
call for the Police, and no-one really knows which day

         he passed away.

Schlemihls in the Loneliness of the Room by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

The subject at toads is to write an Eulogy of a stranger. I think my is a combination of many engineers I have met in the corridor at work, so I probably stretched the rules a bit. I also link this poem to the Poetry Pantry

38 responses to “Listening in silence

  1. How heart wrenching this eulogy to an skilled engineer this is. I always felt so sad when meeting other people like this as it seemed that they were a different species from us who could not embrace the whole of life.

  2. He started counting days but when
    he’d counted up to hundred one he ceased to count,
    and sat, waiting to be carried out.

    Somehow, this seems such a fitting end …. an almost nameless, faceless soul, or a combination of many – as you’ve peopled them here. It makes one wonder, sometimes, about the behind the scenes, how much of a life some have, or don’t – and I like how you’ve used specifics – compasses and calculators – this easily could be shifted to other “branches” – like, maybe – accountants?

    Interesting and intriguing exploration 🙂

  3. I really like that you combined many people you have known into the “stranger” for the eulogy. This was so well done Bjorn! I like how you chose to go in chronological order of Anders life. How the beginning is all passion and talent for maths, then how the language becomes more subdued and muted as he ages. Superb!!!!!! Thanks for posting it to the out of standard.

  4. Seems so sad to us, but I guess each of us has choices to make and we make them. This reminds me a bit of A Man Called Ove (not sure of the exact title) only the latter did have love at one time. This is a masterful blending of people you know and isn’t that what character development is–at least for me. Take the known, tweak it a bit and plop them into a story. Really enjoyed this, Bjorn.

    • I had not thought about Ove, but for sure he could be there… but he really didn’t like his loneliness I think… my character find some comfort in himself… maybe I thought him more like William Stoner…

  5. wow, very sad. And yet, Anders didn’t sound unhappy either like that was the way he was. Still very sad. At least he got a eulogy

  6. I love this guy. 🙂

    These are some of my favorites:

    “he was cursed to understand mechanics, thermodynamics,
    electromagnetism and even math.”

    “At eleven he had built himself a ham-radio”

    “reverse Polish notation” … Swooning over that phrase.

    “he never counted years
    until the day he was made redundant and realized
    he could retire doing nothing”

    he’d counted up to hundred one he ceased to count,
    and sat, waiting to be carried out”

    I think this is beautiful and not sad at all. It actually makes me think of autistic people; so many are nonverbal, but that does not mean they aren’t smart and worthwhile. Just because someone doesn’t feel comfortable engaging with other people much, doesn’t mean their life was a waste. I know you’re not saying that; you’re smarter than that.

  7. This is a stunning piece, Bjorn. The style and tone are perfect, the voice so authentic, it took me a while to realize the whole thing was fabricated. It makes me think of how many people I have failed to meet in my life who would have added to it in some immeasurable way – but I am most grateful to have met you.

  8. I really not conclude from this poem that Anders was unhappy. Perhaps he found happiness within his home, didn’t need anything outside of his home. Perhaps he found silence a blessing rather than a curse. Sad though that when he died no one noticed…until the smell.

  9. Do we ever really know another person? Anders seems to have slipped through life, mostly unnoticed. Unfortunately, he is many people. Reminds me of a refrain from a Beatles song: “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” Anders found belonging in his mind. Somehow, I think he longed to belong to someone else, someone special, too.

  10. A very striking statement. Without noticing the title or knowing it was a eulogy, I wasn’t sure where this was headed. I liked this very much. It had a very human quality. But I am sad for his missing voice and no explanation for the observer-not-participant theme of his life.

  11. So many lives are lived like this. I imagine he was a friend of silence. As i live much in silence, i can understand that. I am struck that he stopped counting the days, as if the days no longer counted. A really well done character study.

  12. Your eulogy is a portrait of someone so introverted, he dies alone. I hope your work mates have a better future.
    You captured a life (or many) in these words. The story is so interesting, though so sad.

  13. What a compelling read! At first I felt sad, but he’s no Richard Cory and he followed his bliss (whether or not it would be mine). I am Always saddened by someone being silenced and wonder what they would have voiced. But this one wasn’t silenced, just not drawn out. I love how alive you made this nameless one so that I truly care.

  14. You made him so real! And his behaviour seems somehow normal, though we might usually call such by other names. The ultimate in self-sufficiency! (I think he has Asperger’s.)

  15. this reminds me of the occassional news reports of single, elderly persons found dead in their flats after reports of unpleasant smells from their neighbours. wonder if their lives parallel that of your character.

  16. A chilling piece that packs a wallop of a reality check. My husband used to work in his hometown paper mill on summers from university. Men that had worked there for years and years were referred to (behind their backs, of course) as having succumbed to ‘mill brain’ – which meant they didn’t have any interest in anything but their job. I’ve long believed there is such a thing as ‘office brain’. No one speaks of it, though, because so many office workers have it … it kind of goes: unnoticed.

  17. kaykuala

    How sad to be inventive but not made known to the world. Silence is not golden after all!.


I try to reciprocate all comments. If you want me to visit a particular post, please direct me directly to that post.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.