IlluminationsMature

Three musings on a light echo

I.

One night I read an article

about something called a light echo,

or an echo of light as I prefer to call it.

It happens when a nova

bursts out across the void

like a train howling through a tunnel.

It’s light illuminates

all the nearby cosmic debris –

asteroids and gaseous clouds –

and they shine in such a manner

that for astronomers

it looks as though the nova is expanding

superluminously – what a great word –

and is still expanding long after

the nova has faded out.

Even then, the light reflects

off what it has touched,

leaving a halo of dust,

an afterimage burned into the heavens.

II


Two weeks ago I met my friend James for lunch.

He’d just landed a cushy recording gig,

but he still lives in a shitty part of Long Beach.

He told me about a transvestite hooker

who works near his house.

He said she’s there every day.

No cops ever bother her,

probably because nobody would ever

pick her up.

I see James again.

We make small talk. He says the hooker’s still there.

He tells me he was driving home

late one night and saw her

standing under a streetlight,

fiddling with a strap on one of her pumps.

Returning later, he walked towards her.

She looked up at him,

and he handed her a bouquet of roses.

Then he got back in his car and drove home.

III


One weekend, still early Spring,

I finally got around to weeding my yard.

As I hacked at the roots of a young thistle

something shifted

within a clump of pine needles.

Underneath lay a crow

already half-decayed.

From beneath the ragged shawl of feathers

the bones of its wing jutted out 

like splayed fingers, and I watched 

the maggots poke through its abdomen,

and tumble out of the bird’s mouth.

I dug a hole beneath my tangerine tree,

picked up the bird with my trowel 

and lowered it slowly into the ground. 

After spreading the earth back over,

I hunched there beneath the tree for a moment. 

I do not pray, but I thought for it,

before returning to my work.

At the end of Spring,

the tangerines blossomed like fire.

The End

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