Friday, December 16, 2005

Before Hanukkah

Let the straight flower bespeak its purpose in straightness - to seek the light.
Let the crooked flower bespeak its purpose in crookedness - to seek the light.
Let the crookedness and straightness bespeak the light.
Alan Ginsberg, Psalm III.

I know the crooked at once. How it tries
to circle, catch a sudden pale gleam,
how it sparks a pearly surprise
against the sky, its silhouette
making a little bend

just before the sun is visible. The straight
is harder. No curves, no beckoning,
just unendingly in the place

we’re used to. It’s not exactly
boring. It can stiffen hard to flatten
silence in the light while it seeks.
Maybe that’s why looking for light
when the season says Hanukkah

is so hard, so easy: the Maccabees fight,
win, the Greeks leave - the straight plain
facts plus one drop of oil burning for eight days
to light up the crooked, just for kids.
Maybe light, plain light

is always unexpected, like a trick? Or like stars

reflected on living room windows outside.
We stand in the yard at night, see stars window-
gleam at us as though really we can hold
onto them if we want to inside, behind the glass.

This morning before the sun
could struggle through the fog we found
a dead bluebird on our deck.

It stayed so long in the garden
this fall we could watch it flicker
blue light up and down
through all the greens of the trees.

Did the window-glass play a trick
on the bluebird, look like some blaze of enlightenment
our bird knew it had to reach? It’s hard
to fling yourself against a mirage in the dark.
When Hanukkah makes winter official
for us in one week we’ll remember
the straight blue wings
lying flat, think of the surprisingly
pearly legs catching a sparkle, wavering up
in two skinny half-circles in the fog

as if they had a kind of faith
in the continuing light.

-- puah