Presence of Absence

by Rula Shin

In fifth grade my teacher grinned,
”What color is black?” he asked,
“do you know that it’s simply ABSENCE?”


I pondered many nights thereafter
trying to imagine the color of colorless black

Not until middle school did I hear
the one about the falling tree,
”does it make a sound if no one’s there?”


I pondered many nights thereafter
trying to imagine sound without a listener

In high school I was uncertain
when my father implored me to ascertain
the absence of space from my presence


I pondered many nights thereafter
trying to imagine the presence of omnipresent ABSENCE

Recently I recalled the question,
“What is ABSENCE?”
I am pondering many nights since,

How does ‘NOTHINGNESS’ spill out
into ‘EVERYTHING’ here and now?


Author's Note: Inspired by Mike McConnell inspired by Ashok Sharda.

Posted on 03/28/2004
Copyright © 2021 Rula Shin

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Mara Meade on 03/28/04 at 03:34 AM

Thirty years ago, almost to this date, I flipped over onto my back beside a tributary of the banks of the Helmand River in Afghanistan. I wanted to see the brilliant night sky up-side down. I have never forgotten the feeling of infinity I found. There have been few times since then that I have felt that same thing. Reading your words brought it back. Thank you for that.. for that question that will take your breath away if you ponder it too long....

Posted by Ashok Sharda on 03/28/04 at 03:50 AM

These are IMPOSSIBLE QUESTIONS. But impossible questions alone made man to land on the moon.There cannot be an objective truth in the presence of an observer.And the observed shall not exist in the absence of an observer. What remains? An omnipresent NOTHINGNESS impregnant with the past, the present and the so called future?The only objective truth called NOTHING begetting all subjective truths called something.

Posted by Anne Engelen on 03/29/04 at 12:25 AM

you just pulled that switch that sets my mind in motion...great read!!

Posted by Kara Hayostek on 03/29/04 at 01:30 AM

J and I were just arguing about that tree. Very cool read :-)

Posted by Ginette T Belle on 03/29/04 at 03:04 AM

thought provoking, nice form...enjoyed reading this..

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 03/30/04 at 05:25 PM

Universal and timeless questions well conveyed. Perhaps only in Heaven we shall finally have the answers.

Posted by Ashok Sharda on 03/30/04 at 06:55 PM

I am here to remind you that you have presented this piece as first of this series of poem on this theme. I am also here to remind you that its said that the universe is expanding, the ray of creation is ever growing.Now my point is where is it expanding? Is it the omnipresent nothingness the source of all things, including the so called space-time continuum?

Posted by Kristine Briese on 04/15/04 at 04:00 AM

Such questions give one pause to think. You, especially, have thought well.

Posted by Susan Q Tomas on 04/18/04 at 06:23 PM

Thank you for sharing your contemplating history. I too will be pondering this, and your ponderings make you a very interesting poet to me.

Posted by J. P. Davies on 05/04/04 at 10:39 PM

Now if we can label a thing "nothingness", do we not by giving it a name give it the essence of "something"? Would "nothingness" not have to be untenable? HMMMM...

Posted by Laura Doom on 04/10/05 at 07:36 PM

Absence is a wonderful concept, an inference that contradicts itself. In regretting someone's absence, we immediately afford them presence. Incidentally, there is no tree (or so I've heard :)

Posted by Laura Doom on 04/10/05 at 07:50 PM

A post-script to Jade's comment...on reflection (or not), 'black' can be (un)seen from two perspectives (at least). As the absence of colour, or as the absorption of the entire spectrum of (visible) light - hard to swallow, but then, one swallow doth not a summer obliterate. Where did it all go? (Secreted within these irritatingly ubiquitous parentheses?)

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