Indistinguishable from the Darkness
BY CHARLIE SMITH
The dark under the trees is filled with lightning bugs
and because I am in one of those strange moods
I start to think I have found one of the hollows
where the life of the world is created. There is light
on the field still, a late light, bluish-gray, clear as water,
but in the dark circle of shadow under the oaks transformations
take place; small, accurate, invested points of light shiver
and rise wavering above the thin grass. I am in one of those moods
when I need this, this regenerative, tangibly formed
coinage, this dream or perception of the mixing vats
of the earth making out of nothing small light
that might continue to grow and change, become substantial.
The world of this field, sloping to a small black pond under trees,
is empty just now; on the side of the low mountain before me
the constructed lights of houses come on and shine like gold jackets
thrown up into the trees. It is spring and the breeze carries its mix
of summer and spring and the hint of dew that is not so much carried
as woven into the slippage of air; purplish clouds, thinned
nearly to haze, pile against the western rim. I have known
this mood before, and it comes sought but unbidden.
Like a shy child, it does not approach; the lightning bugs
do not translate themselves into negotiable forms—a human
hand, the voice of a loved one. To become known
we must become unknown; the way out, I have learned,
is through. But I do not know
the names of the trees that are just now carefully laying
their long shadows across the body of the pond. The shadows
will lie on the surface of the water all night,
indistinguishable from darkness. It is not a matter
of being saved. I know this.
Charlie Smith, “Indistinguishable from the Darkness” from Indistinguishable from the Darkness (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Charlie Smith.