By Kei Miller

Kei Miller is a Jamaican poet, fiction writer, essayist and blogger. In 2014 he won the Forward Prize for his collection The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way To Zion.

In The Whispering Gallery 

by Kei Miller

Isaiah 29:4

Brought low, you will speak from the ground; your speech will mumble out of the dust. Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth; out of the dust your speech will whisper.



Come now and see a trick:

say something to what might seem

like silence – which is to say, a wall,

its quiet sprawl of bricks.


And let your words themselves

be soft as silence; now wait.

What you thought no one would hear,

will find an ear -


will travel round and round.

The bricks you thought might muffle

sound, in fact bears your voice

whole and distinct.


And what is this if not prayer,

the way we speak to what might seem

like silence, which is to say, god,

her quiet sprawl of sky, or just


her chamber of bricks, and how

our desperate syllables of dust,

the words we thought no one would hear

are in fact borne up, and never lost.



Kings 19:12

After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.


You will find her, not in the fire

that skipped smooth as stones island to island,

Portugal then across the arc

of archipelagos, Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas


You will find her, not in the wind,

its furious funnel, the tornado that snapped

the buildings of Jiangsu,

98 people dead;


You will find her, not in the sea, its salt

or squall; how even the calm Mediterranean

can close over the floating shanties

and suck them down.


You will find her,  not in the blood,

the bodies, the spent bullets of Orlando;

not in the slipped mountains of Sao Paulo,

the marauding mud,


Not in the heat waves or the hurricanes,

or the earthquakes –  Italy wobbling

Like an untuned TV; not in the airplanes

that fall like flies;


But here. Just here.

In the Whispering Gallery.

She is here.



Job 26:14

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!


Consider then this cathedral, its dome

and its crypt - the once loud lives

that now only whisper, the muted script

of soldiers and kings, of poets


and priests, reduced now

to the softest of syllables of themselves,

And yet they have been heard

And yet they have changed the world.

And what I mean to say is -


In this loud world, be not afraid

of the quiet, of the stillness, of the low

humming night, of the sleeping birds,

of the moments that stretch wide


as horizons, when we might hear

our own selves, our own painful hearts roaring

For there too we might hear

The faintest whisper of some god.


Come now and see a trick:

say something to what might seem

like silence - which is to say , a wall,

its quiet sprawl of bricks -

Commissioned by Poet in the City and St Paul's Cathedral for Under the Skin 2016 ©
Audio recordings by Kieran Lucas. Photographs by Graham Lacdao.