16 October 2010

Young Smith

[from Young Smith's In A City You Will Never Visit, Black Zinnias, 2008]

She Considers the Dimensions of Her Soul

                    (Mrs. Morninghouse, after a Sermon Entitled,
                    "What the Spirit Teaches Us through Grief")

The shape of her soul is a square.
She knows this to be the case
because she sometimes feels its corners
pressing sharp against the bone
just under her shoulder blades
and across the wings of her hips.
At one time, when she was younger,
she had hoped that it might be a cube,
but the years have worked to dispel
this illusion of space. So that now
she understands: it is a simple plane:
a shape with surface, but no volume --
a window without a building, an eye
without a mind.
                          Of course, this square
does not appear on x-rays, and often,
weeks may pass when she forgets
that it exists. When she does think
to consider its purpose in her life,
she can say only that it aches with
a single mystery for whose answer
she has long ago given up the search --
since that question is a name which can
never quite be asked. This yearning,
she has concluded, is the only function
of the square, repeated again and again
in each of its four matching angles,
until, with time, she is persuaded anew
to accept that what it frames has no
interest in ever making her happy.

The Properties of Light

xv. illuminance

Beneath the aureole
always the umbra --

that "blackest region
of a shadow" --

though beneath
the umbra, as beneath

the cysted flocculi
of the sun, always

a deeper light
that gives the dark

its burnish -- and it is
in this subtle gleaming

of the black,
in this quiet here

beneath the absence,
that the light achieves

its first and only
deliverance from grief.

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