Guy Reed

What Memories Are Carried In Light?

In poems, the light Pablo Neruda saw adrift
in the Chilean Andes, sea and sun while bells
rang an ocean breeze. Jack Gilbert’s Greek sun
above the blue Aegean hammering rock and weed
followed by brilliant white truest under moonlight.
Jane Kenyon’s golden dust sparkle of late day hay light.

We shape light, mental constructions never before
imagined. Even in sleep, we play cinemas of apocalypse
and passion churned from the crevasse of our unconscious
inside an exploded universe. Music creates light in the
dark, I see across vast stretches of Canadian plains swept
with brushes of broken clouds that pass onward,
sweep the steppes of Tibet and sift through snowy trees
in far northern Russia. All over the world, light
attaching to everything that can hold,
traveling from everything that reflects.

Unending fathoms which light can travel, passing
to the center of the mind not in the middle of our heads,
the deeper heart which doesn’t beat in our chests. A quality
of light all my life, a vision, Mediterranean sun
illuminating stone architecture like Impressionist paintings.
But it’s both there and not there, a quality inside
the tonality. Turning my vision inside out, it is an image
neither dream nor memory, but also a feeling,
more abstract, like a future past—
the light of Antibes Nicolas de Stael cut onto canvas—
non-figurative impasto. All Edward Hopper wanted to paint
was sunlight on the side of a house. That light
is outside my life.

I’ve seen southern California beach light after rainfall,
San Francisco’s autumn sea light, a soft gray hush
on Manhattan streets, morning orange New Mexico desert.
Midwest late afternoon slant across cornfields, windbreaks
of the prairie, barn swallows at dusk, hollyhocks
in the farmyard, red wing blackbirds in the marshes.
Oregon’s Pacific light looked closest to my vision; sun
below the coastal range, colossal trees caught the gold
shine in the high branches, and it glowed rose-pink among
the snow tops of the Cascades. As evening descended,
ocean mist in thin haze, that light felt distant from my life.

Catskill Mountains, blue stone origins from under the sea,
light’s witness longer than ancient stories have told,
sunlight comes yellow through the forest and falls
into the lap of my yard. Summer, 6 p.m., the entire
spectrum falling everywhere. Flora and fauna of the wood
wave and scramble, gather up the day’s diminishing light.
It shifts, fractions of nanoseconds, we perceive the slow
subtleties. Our eyes rise, lower, blink and we stretch
the leaf of our skin up and outward.

—But it’s late-August, my feet high in the dunes
of the cape, cool dry sand, sundown, glowing sea sky
twilight. A perfect calmness. Whale flukes in the distance.
Laughter— it’s the most beautiful I’ve ever felt—
but more; the children, the color of bronze,
shine a light no tenderness could ever hold, for our hands
are too much sinew, tendons require tension from which
light travels free as we leap, Earth continues falling
through space—
gravity pulls at our hearts, and we are left
with a gentleness
beyond our bodies’ possibility.