Here is a poem that I just finished revising.
Ode to Man Controlled Light
Sitting upon the altar, visible even within
the pulse of electrified light, this season’s
advent candles sway as if moving to a quick
mambo. Where was the primal candle first lit? Home?
Temple? Court? Wheels moved our goods
around on roads of our making, but
was not the harnessing of light,
the leverage and axis point of the imagination
fueling the creating of cities, nations and worlds?
Look into the crevices of collected memory,
where does the one who originally took flame
and touched string embedded in wax and let light
be into the darkness of human night live?
Wonder. Candles are controlled fires. Wax slowing
down the burning making light last for hours.
Where the heat of burning string meets the wax,
the very being of wax changes from solid to liquid.
Playing with the balls of cooling liquid wax coats
the thumb white, making the underlining skin
smooth. The flame opens out onto the demanding
surroundings of the indoors. Seldom do candles live
outside. A flame flickers with slightest shaking
of breath. With too much air passing over,
and the candle dies—the darkness returns. Perplexing?
The Buddha used this black metaphor to explain enlightenment:
Two damp fingers pressed together, then a sizzle
sound and the trembling yellow light departs. Advent,
menorah, unity—candles make people dream
dreams of the bliss. A product of the inventiveness
of the human mind, wax, sting and fire create
contemplation of what lies beyond us. At Christmas eve,
a glimmer of flame passes from neighbor to neighbor
signifying the living light coming in the world. The ancient
miracle of candles burning for days longer than reason
allowed in old Jerusalem’s temple to the Holy One under attack
by Alexander the Great’s rational descendants, a time
remembered to our day by the symbol of the sacred
candle holder, menorah. A man and woman holding
hands in front of family and friends transfer a small blaze
together as a sign of their lasting love. Found among
all the longing corners of earth, they have given the light
to read at night. Candles oppose the violence
of the common world, even as they are now
used simply a backup in case of a blackout,
or as an accent to add romance to any room.
Light bulbs are also controlled fire. Electrified wires
set filaments ablaze. Enclosed in glass, they venture
out into sunny days, wind, and can even conquer
the darkness of the deep oceans. They have walk
on the moon. Library stay open longer
under their power. We have wired homes, cities,
regions, countries, and continents into a great
cable mesh engulfing our the whole of our small
planet, lighting the darkest corners with man’s little
torches. So concentrated our tiny beans that the Milky Way’s
bright burning masses are invisible to eyes living
in our cities. The enlightenment of our day,
optic beams carry our knowledge across the globe,
making us think the world smaller. We realize
through our gather light instruments, telescopes,
radar dishes, and X-ray detector that our universe is vaster
than our ancestors imagined, and expands larger and larger
with each moment. Our night skies only speak
of an unimagined past, stars older than our galaxy.
Yet, the light bulb remains. The reality of the darkness
disappearing with a flick of a button, while still burns
in the heart of the modern ones. The man made
light blazes on screens, phones, landscapes as our sun
slowly burns out. Once lit, we will not return to string and wax.
How can we learn humility, while gazing into the light
of our making? The poor, the rich, the artisans all can see
even when sunlight is on the other side of the world.
Light bulbs when dead jingle to the hand’s shaking.
What effect upon the imagination this force-fed
light? Lazy, we move with readymade photons
and seldom pause to wonder at the live
With candles, torches, flashlights, light bulbs,
penlights, computer screens and so many
more of our controlling photons, what are to make
as we move through the darkness of space?
Joy to our illusions—our light blinds us,
unable to see the certainty our lives—death
can be forgotten by the shining display of neon
until the very last moment of breath. Blinking
lights of holiday lights, of respirators, of shopping
windows, and of planes landing, build a tower
of beams, making the heavens dimmer within
our poetry, minds and thoughts—what joy?
Let us leave the lights on as we leave the room,
Lets learn to sleep with all the lamps on bright,
Let us leave the headlights to drain the batteries.
Let us fill the night like a million Las Vegas strips,
Let us gamble away reds, greens, yellows, and the gaudy
light of our desert fears, When the light of the sun
drowns out our lights, let us forget to pay the bill.
Let our imagination be again be small as our electric
enlightenment. Peculiar—enlightenment—a candle out
and a stream of smoke rising. What can it touch?