Light in All Its Forms

On Picture Made By My Hand with the Assistance of Light, by Walead Beshty
[[[link to the artwork that inspired this poem:]]]

i. ice and its qualities // regeneration
the way ice breaks apart between stubborn teeth,
its shatters milk-white, bleeding into
much worse the groaning slush of iceberg
against iceberg,
mother nature’s own bad habit,
the habitats of polar bears and elephant seals
caught in the liminal space,
the voids,
the cavities.
the animals live between gnashing molars,
bicuspids of resplendent bifrost,
and we forget, in the end, that we
are animals too.

ii. deterioration // sanctification
stretch the plastic trash bag to its limit,
feeling the tension in this artificial skin
black to disguise its contents,
black to hide what light can’t see.
the way rays of light break apart on its
bounce back, radiate heat.
the way rays/streams, maybe
even eddies of light
become dots, fragments, shatter
across the membrane as if
across water.

given enough time, the sun
will burn even plastic into dust,
motes of floating shale
bleached white in the heat of a
red giant
shaking off the last
of its struggling photons,
readying itself for

iii. interiority // glorification
what’s weird with
light is its properties,
both a wave and a particle
at once.
what’s weird
is the fact that
electromagnetism extends
across a spectrum,
demarcated only by
the rapidity of
its vibrations.

on one end, sound waves
are just light
at a slower pace.
stick your toe in the deeper end
and touch the X-rays
as they touch beyond the blackbody
radiation that pours from your own
self, touch
the hidden parts
bones    organs    tumors
and lift the roof of your frame,
expose the underpinnings,
reveal the harsh truth:

there is no self,
only light in all its forms.

suicide letter, pt. 1 [working title]


Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

I. Hole-Puncher

if I were to write a suicide note,
I would want to talk about gravity
—about how when we fall the Earth inches
imperceptibly toward us, coming up
to meet us mid-air. Our own planet is
an aggressor against us! (I once saw
a young girl pierced by the root of a tree…)
Is it possible to live in a world
that by its nature punches holes in you?

II. Abaddon

there is a caterpillar named Doubt
who, with his razor teeth,
gnaws and shreds his slow way
across the foliage
of Truth and Salvation,
eating through their membranes,
dissolving their cell walls
like a cancer. This worm
(or is it Wyrm?) is not
an unnatural thread
in our world’s great pattern.
For it is the nature
of all leafy green things—
of all things beautiful,
good, and worthy of praise—
to fall prey to Eaters,
to drought and entropy.
This is the way of it.
It’s inevitable.
And the last leafy thing
that Doubt will perforate
is his own opposite—
a tree-root that spouts up
from the ground of All-Things,
an emanating lightbeam called Hope.

Falling Asleep

The Worship Collective

one shrill saw
comes ripping
through the night:

his sounds like
shredding logs
and hers soft.

she lies with
one eye shut,
one peeking –

a night owl
on watch for
scrambling mice.

And between
their bodies
bedsheets chill

in tensile
air. her breath
leaves the mouth

as droplets
of mist: this
night is cold.

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play of light on submerged rock surface.
the air damp, cold:
we swim through it as a school,
stopping and darting at flickers of light,
eddies of crowd-current.

from a rock perch the otter looks up
lazily, notices its audience for the first time.
the paw comes up, gets licked,
he goes back to his bored routine:
waits for the bluejeaned man to bring the feed.


What I want is to lie
with my back on the grass,
staring up at the sky
shifting shape with the clouds,
this vision narrowing
to that small sphere of life
out on 491
on the way up to Boone.

I would watch the water
in worn grooves trickle down
along the carved sides of
a cliff where men cut out
the highway. I want to
toss up dust from the ground,
swish my head among weeds,
smell the mist, pen a poem,

both to see and be seen.

The World is Coming of Age (or:) Tarzan and Jane

I was young and we climbed trees,
pretending the blades of grass
were a rainforest. For a moment
she hung
the air,
almost gracefully fluttering
like another leaf spent of energy,
flung outward from the tree.

We did not have cherry blossoms
where I grew up:
only the dried up carcasses
of leaves, brownish and
miscolored, the rain
ironically mixing them into slush
like the burly forearms of
a butterchurning marm;
a sluice of greenless mud.

It was mid-autumn.

Her fall looked fatal to me,
a descension from near-infinite
height, until the childish pretension
faded: the fall would not kill
– only hurt.

Her chin kissed the top of
a protruding root (it was a French
kiss, the root plunging its
tongue with sensual desire
into the red-brown orifice
where chin-meat used to be),
and she was unmaidened,
perforated in that instant.

Our mothers’ wails outdrowned
her own as they escorted
her to: the restroom.

The last glimpse of her
I had was of a
, birthed out through the undercarriage
of her jaw, the brown
carcass of a stillborn

An Audience

The cat was orange
and pitiful, its mewling
subdued but sharp.
It led me across the road,
its head twisting back
every few steps to make
sure I followed.

It had patches of hairless
scabs like kneepads
on its hindlegs,
and wandered into the ruins
of an old trailer home.
Reddish planks seemed
hung on strings of insulation,
waiting to fall inward
with the slightest shrug of wind.
The cat perched up on a stump beside
the dying hovel.

The poor thing didn’t ask for help,
but with a widow’s pride
licked its paw as if to say:
this is my home, little man.
it’s not much, but I have
the ruling of it.

I laughed to myself
and walked away,
the cat’s eyes like a king’s
watching my departure with solemnity.

Hypostatic Union

The very thinkings of God,
his own logic.
What pressure it must have been
to have the Maker contained

in walls of light pink flesh!
The thrum of blood pulsing
through tissue, vessels, heart –
every cell infused with Heaven’s

ether. What a mystery!
What new mystery is this?
The king requiring diapers
and breast milk,

a toddler in swaddling clothes.
The smell of myrrh to mask
the retchings of horses, cattle;
evidence of biology all around.

How fortunate the Man
refused to vibrate away, but
instead insisted on living the
contradiction: to have the Maker

contained in walls of light pink
flesh. And 30 some-odd years
later: what a whooshing sound
it must have made as he left

his flesh behind,
lower case t holding
Truth and meat


What are they to me,
the words of old poets
and dead philosophers,
if the internal constancy
of life maintains itself?

Confucius says:______
but what does it matter
if yin
and yang
must be eternally balanced?

The system is closed ?
Then there is no meaning.
The dog barks.
The flowers bloom.
The sun burns.
The people breathe.
Until the sun burns out
and turns cold and the
Earth dissolves into
particulate nothing
and no amount of
spaceships can save us
but just prolong
the inevitable.

And the galaxy sucks
itself in
– a vortex –
and the universe follows
‘til the spinning
mass becomes a point
so infinitesimal,
so pointless,
and all the weight
of all the worlds
in all the universe
presses in, and
Nothing left to bark or bloom,
Nothing left to burn or breathe,

no one to drive the car