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In a Glass Darkly

M. Travis Lane
From: Descant, vol. 142, 2008. Honourable Mention. The Book of Widows (Frog Hollow Press, 2010), Ash Steps (Cormorant Books, 2012)


It's night, and where we sit
together, watching the failing fire
sink and grow red,
the windows shine
with our dim selves reflected, and, beyond
those darkened shapes,
a nightscape of strange things
not clear, and not familiar—
though nothing's changed,
except what changes all the time.

We can't see out
if the kitchen light
bedazzling from the ceiling,
clouds the glass
with its peculiar mirror of our selves,
and yet we want that glass
between ourselves and the outdoors.

Whatever it is that courses through
our yards and gardens midnights
on these crisp winter evenings leaves no mark
on the glassed snow.
What is out there?
Turn out the house lights and we see
only the lights of midnight stars,
moon, clouds refracting earth-lights, they
might let us know
something of darkness.

But not that orange street-light, much too loud,
which severs dusk from twilight and decides
against the stars, against the dark,
a constant semi-noon-light,
full of buzz, it tell us nothing we don't know.

What we see in reflections, late at night
in mirrors stretched on darkness or the pale
wave-rippled brilliance of a pond,
are only surfaces which close
against our look.

So Dido saw,
having a dark heart for her thought,
an old flame glimmer,
but the fire
was Carthage, burning,
death, her brilliant past.


M. Travis Lane's works copyright © to the author.


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