The following is from a lengthy mini-essay on effective uses of cliché, in the Dictionary of Poetic Terms:
The Unstated Cliché
Sometimes a poem will have a cliché as its unstated theme. In the following poem by Thomas James, there lurks in the background the aphorism “Silence is Golden”, but the way in which James expresses this clichéd statement is utterly new and beautiful.
LETTER TO A MUTE
If I could reach you now, in any way
At all, I would say this to you:
This afternoon I walked into a thicket
Of gold flowers that had no idea
What they were after. They couldn’t hear a thing.
I walked among a million, small, deaf ears
Breaking their gold into the afternoon.
I think they were like you, golden, golden,
Unable to express a single thing.
I walked among them, thinking of you,
Thinking of what it would be like
To be completely solitary. Once I was alone like that.
All the field was humming, brimming
With some brazen kind of song, and I
Thought that somehow I could disappear
Into the empty hall of your right ear.
Wandering through the slender bones of you.
But I know that I could never let you know
That it is late summer here, that I
Can hear the crickets every evening
Hollowing out the darkness at my window
That you have vanished into a dark tunnel
Where I have tried to reach you with my mouth
Till my mouth ran gold, spilling over everything.
Tonight I looked into your face, tenderly,
Tenderly, but I could never find you there.
I could only touch your quiet lips.
If I could stick my pen into your tongue,
Making it run with gold, making
It speak entirely to me, letting the truth
Slide out of it, I could not be alone.
I wouldn’t even touch you, for I know
How you are locked away from me forever.
Tonight I go out looking for you everywhere
As the moon slips out, a slender petal
Offering all its gold to me for nothing.