There is the first light by which
the world began. Some say it was made
by a lonely deity peering into the void
and empty black – no stars, no moon, no sun,
no world, no us – and to dispel this loneliness,
he began to speak everything into existence,
beginning with light. We have guessed at his – or her –
name since we picked up chisel to mark stone or
tattooed our hearts in ink upon papyrus
or common paper. Some have even guessed
that the light made itself, pulling together
enough gas and matter to contract and then explode,
flinging dreams of stars, planets, and
little crowds of creatures in every direction.
How many lights can we live without?
Certainly not the sun, nor the moon,
nor the stars. We instinctively look for luminescence,
hoping for a kind spirit or a logical, constant force
behind the candle power, the nuclear fission, or the
moon-white reflective mother who stands in the darkness
so that we are not alone. We use the little, coruscating beacons
in the night above to point north, south, east, and west, to
guide our boats cutting pathways across
the face of the midnight cornflower deep, to
tell us where on Time’s back we are suspended
and how much longer our ride will be.
And when the heavenly bodies are not enough,
we begin to create lights of our own. Perhaps
it was a curious ancestor striking rocks together
after watching lightning giving birth to an accidental bonfire
and deciding: we need that! Our ancient stories might say
it was a benevolent Titan or trickster Raven
giving us the gift so we did not remain in the
frigid inky dark with empty bellies, but we
had to keep kindling it over and over again
on our own. And when fire was not enough, we
channeled the current of the gods through
wires and conduits to give us light we could
conjure up, as if we are impressive shamans
or priestesses who can control the forces of nature.
Even as we are lit by day and by night,
in the open pasture or inside our sturdy walls,
we seek light that is not seen by our human eyes. We tell
our children of planets dancing together in waltz time to
make a star which guided eastern wise men to the cradle
of another light compressed into flesh – a little baby boy
sleeping amongst straw and the lullabies of cattle. Or
we tell of lamps which miraculously remained lit for eight days
in the absence of oil. Or we peer through telescopes
and balance equations and see the light of logic
and the laws of physics staring back at us. We seek light
through sage teachings passed down from mouth to ear
or by cracking open their written word chests
through proverb and aphorisms.
And even more light courses through
our fragile, carnal bodies with skin stretched tight enough
to cover muscle but yet still cannot conceal rivers
of collected daylight that run through us. Look careful: there are
banks, canyons, and channels that barely contain
their flows. The radiance of joy cuts an ancient path
down to a bayou, empting into another coastline
next to where love has spread fringed fingers to create
a delta. And do not stop to marvel now, for there is
more: the ribbon of life that has weaved itself
through everything opens an eye, drinks in breath,
pulls nutrients inside of itself, and leaves
another little version of itself behind. The ribbon
looks like DNA strands to one eye, like
a heartbeat to another eye, like
a poem or a song to another eye or ear.
And with all of this light, is it really that marvelous
that we each carry a little tiny candle in that
red four chambered room in our chests? When
the darkness of war, or murder, or persecution,
or fear obfuscate everything else, we still have
those little candles singing and glowing
inside of us. Can we not peer inside
our little glass crimson caverns and find them to
guide our way through the black or unite them
to start a bonfire?
I leave you with all of this talk of light, convinced
that our candles will still be burning on the morning
of December 22, 2012. That sleepy-eyed stone giant
of a calendar that we discovered embossed on temple walls
will turn his head and see the sun rise, see
the moon and stars go to bed, and see all the
other lights burn, flicker, and sing: this will be
just what he expected. And we should expect no less
© Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
I went a little left of center for We Write Poems Prompt #136 and decided to speak of twelve sources of light instead of twelve words. because of last week’s tragedy, I figured the best thing to focus on was light. I am such a lover of words that I cannot limit myself to twelve.
This will likely be my last poem for 2012. I wish everyone a happy holiday season — Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza, and happy winter solstice. If you don’t celebrate anything at all, I wish you happy holidays anyway. I will be back in early 2013.
One last word of explanation: I have a code or a legend to decode this poem for you. Are you curious as to what the twelve lights are?
The first light: which began the universe.
The second light: the sun.
The third light: the moon.
The fourth light: the stars.
The fifth light: fire.
The sixth light: electricity.
The seventh light: faith and belief.
The eighth light: wisdom
The ninth light: joy.
The tenth light: love.
The eleventh light: life itself.
The twelve light: within ourselves.
Thank you for reading, and many blessings to you.