The Sources of Light
Mornings before dawn I rose
and lit the kerosene latern
and took the cane pole from a corner in the barn
and then went down a road through the fields to a creek where
it bent around behind a hedge of Osage Orange.
After setting the line
I built a fire to keep mosquitoes away,
and fished for an hour or two, sometimes for nothing.
I was ten and confident and I thought
all the sources of light had a common ancestor in God…
the lights in the town in the valley
where I was forbidden to go;
flashes from firecrackers inches away from my fingers;
the searing of lightning
crossing the plains on crooked legs…
I thought these held in common
some memory of the stars
before they were broken into a million pieces—
like the fireflies I gathered in a jar
to read by phosphorus…
that same light belonging to corn
whose fuses flared more gold against black clouds,
and more green before they died.
I don’t know when I figured out how wrong I was
or when I knew that each light
in the valley
had a life circling around it like a small, grey moth.
but memory is the edge of a cliff
where light has no where to go but out.
I tried to reach beyond that. In the middle of my life
I tried to walk straight into that light
that only the dying see, the one that burns in all the others
and covers itself up in forever.
I stood on the edge of nothing
in the whispering of a random present,
pulling my hand back out of the flames
like a child pulling it loose to freedom.
Originally Published in: Prairie Schooner
I will be with you,
a common thing you use everyday,
a brush, a necklace,
the favorite stone you hold in your hand
when you’re afraid.
I can’t be more than this
and I’ve grown deaf to the world
like an old man whose thoughts
are the white birds asleep in the stones of cathedrals,
like the emptiness inside them.
All poetry on this page
Copyright © by Marlon Fick, 2007
We reach for the smallest things first:
a wing bone from a sea gull, pieces
of kelp that break apart easily.
We hardly notice the afternoon
spreading itself too thinly across the Sound,
making the bright bones dark.
Or maybe we notice, out there
there is nothing beyond even our not knowing,
feeling it in each hand,
the dark bones in each finger
of each hand.
I’ve been up late
listening to the steady notes of a ferry
sound and release. It holds on
for a moment and releases, like
your love for me.
I’m standing on the shore, wanting
to see between notes.
You never made me restless.
Perhaps you know I can’t understand the waves,
close and away.
In this inaudible drift
a diver surfaces, deaf
to bring his dark bones back
from where the sea was holding them,
back to the surface of not knowing.
Now, watching, I’m learning that the shore
is somehow never right
is always shifting.
A stone scratches a cold wind
out of a stone. Another piece washed up
we bend to like a promise.
Originally Published in: Denver Quarterly
This evening an indolent wind moves between us
where you hanged yourself
in the stars like chimes.
There is an empty space my eyes console
where the witchgrass cripples with frost
and your prosthesis sags and sweats
to nurse a blouse—its mums commingling
with the lavenders and moonlight.
With what celerity the mathematicians
count as lost, the snow
undertakes your silences.
The other woman’s lips become to me the rim
of your grave the snow tries to fill.
My nights are full of wind and destruction.
I could have torn out my tongue and moaned
over the cold months
like wind crossing an empty bell—
I found you everywhere, the hunt
as winter, the one
the world prayers to
or will undress for, the snow