Today I sat pool side, tugged by the irresistible blue. The umbrella’s shade shifted with an ever-eastward run and I shifted with it. I resisted the water and read instead, wondering at the water’s temperature, the corps of young life guards, the young mothers pregnant, carrying babies, toddlers in tow, equally intrigued by the older mothers and the grandmothers ever-present.
In Alexei Savrasov’s Evening Migration of Birds (1874), birds flee towards the fading light like apostrophes in flight. Denise Levertov has expressed her impatience with light. Meike Nixdorf photographs the trees, the trails at Teide National Park, Spain, and yet I see none of that in her pictures. I see light. Light yokes me: I am as much its student as its slave. Born and raised in the Mojave Desert, I understand light and sun intimately, as has my ancestry four generations deep.
Matisse once said, “Black is the color of light,” which, after a blue (read: black) period myself, I completely understand. In our darkest times we see ourselves most clearly. I have a friend who avoids mirrors. I understand that, too.
Ginsberg sought light in his “Psalm III.” Anne Carson suggests a light that pulls our eyelids back, a sit-up-and-listen light. Rembrandt worked at times with such darkness (see his Artemisia Receiving Mausolus’ Ashes, 1634), that a touch of light on the brow becomes epiphanal.
What is it about light that intrigues? That draws us closer, closes the space from retreat and asks for our hand a moment? Light signals beginnings, endings, goings, and just as equally announces peace, rebirth, spirit and holy.
In this month’s issue of Segullah, we begin at the pool’s edge with Melissa Young’s poem, “del mar.” A poem that reads like a luminous silvering and sparks in us a dawning knowledge of a summer spent.
Next, we venture to the sunrise of motherhood in the essay, “Of Carillon and Kangaroos,” by Emmelyn Thayer Freitas. With her young daughter at the San Diego Zoo (a place as beloved to myself as I think, to them) she flashes back to grad school days with light and longing. Along her path she helps us gain grace for our own lives lit with an ache of places past.
With Emily Dickinson, her sun rose a ribbon at a time. With Julianna Kelly Bratt’s essay, “Sanctissimi Corporis,” the ribbons shred in the sunset of motherhood’s agony, desperation, and desire. Bratt longs for the ocean, to be cremated, to end there not as the lip of earth ends, but as the blue begins and extends ever outward in widening gyres. “We don’t stop desiring because it hurts us. We learn how to grieve.” And with her insight we grieve alongside her loss of a great-aunt, her miscarriage, and her ancestors and their wombs.
What, after all this, remains? Might I suggest light. As Flannery O’Connor says, “Malebranche was right: we are not our own light.” It is the light, the words of others, as with this issue of Segullah, that help us see.
Associate Poetry Editor