Zia Hassan

Who Or What Is Noyes

+++ title = “04” date = 2019 +++

There’s a street near me named Noyes.

When I was a child, I thought that this name was pronounced “no yes,” which I found funny and contradictory. What was this street name that was both negative and affirmative simultaneously? It sounded as if someone was changing their mind and it was captured in the form of a street.

Now that I know better, I realize that It’s pronounced like “noise” with a soft s sound at the end. It is named after someone, though I am not sure whom, and internet research hasn’t given me a sufficient answer. But I did find a handful of people that the street could be named after.

It could be a reference to Alfred Noyes, an English poet, who wrote:

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

And the highwayman came riding—


The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

There’s a lot of no-yes in this poem. The tension that is created with the beautiful images of the night sky against words like ghostly and darkness and gusty.

Or, perhaps Noyes is a reference to Clara D. Noyes, an American nurse who headed the American Red Cross in WWI. Nurses tend to say yes to those in distress and no to their own needs.

Or, perhaps it is a reference to Dorothy Noyes, who writes about tradition and folklore in the context of history. Many of the stories contained in folklore have elements of no-yes. They leave a reader questioning their own morality, despite occasionally containing a moral.

And so every time I see this street now, I say to myself a quiet “no-yes” and it brings me a tiny sliver of peace. It reminds me that, to any question, there are binary answers, and then there are transcendent answers.

No-yes is not an answer that satisfies. Instead, it nourishes.