Light

I realized that I would never be enough
to brighten the whole world.

I thought I wanted
to be the sun,
the source of light,
the source of life,
the thing that beckons in the day
and cannot stand the darkness
so much that it has to leave
when the blackness of night encroaches.

But when I tried to fill
the space with light,
I realized that I would never be enough
to brighten the whole world.

Then, I wanted to be a star,
to twinkle and illuminate
in an otherwise dark sky,
to provide just enough light
to prevent fear,
to prevent stumbling,
to be the thing that wayward travelers
use to guide themselves to safety.

But when I tried to shine
a pinprick of light,
I was easily outshone
by the fellow stars around me.

Then, I wanted to be the moon,
the shiny globe that wanes and waxes,
that has the chance to disappear
but always just waits
and always returns,
to be the reflector of light
and illuminate the night sky
in my own right.

But I wasn’t sure how to reflect the light.
I’m still not sure how to reflect the light.
I hope that one day
I can find a way
to reflect the light.




Photo by Dương Nhân

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In Search

Of flames and dying sparks

When I set out to find answers,
it was like how the sun sets out of the sky–
firstly illuminating, then fading slow, slow, slow,
and finally plunging into darkness.

It’s not that the answers were unexpected–
in fact, quite the opposite.
As it turns out, seeking fire and brimstone
leads you to fire and brimstone.

I still have an ember from that inferno
held under the tightly woven treated threads
of fire-retardant fabric.
I miss seeing that ember, but the smothering is necessary.

The only way to gather new light
seems to be first extinguishing the old,
but never forgetting.
No, never forgetting.

There is nothing here for me now in the thick brush
where the light is tinged yellow by the leaves of the canopy above,
nothing there for me now in the desolate desert
where the vast sheet of stars overhead overwhelms.

I love you.
That doesn’t change anything.

Photo by marco allasio from Pexels

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I Am No Expert

What does Whitman know?

Pinpricks of light slip through the mesh screen of the window,
but they aggregate to appear as a strong, steady beam.

I can describe the human understanding of photons–
how those packets of energy are influenced by our observation of them,
and there is beauty and poetry in that,
but I am no expert, and though it is an important role,
it is not mine.

My role is to experience the universe
as the sun continues to beam through the window
and as it goes down
and is replaced in the sky
by things that offer less light to our planet.

Stars appear as pinpricks of light,
staying separate in their celestial appearance
unless drowned out by the overwhelming sun.

I could tell you all about the redshift of starlight–
how it lets us know that the universe is expanding–,
and there is a beauty and a poetry in that,
but I am no expert, and though it is an important role,
it is not mine.

My role is to transform my experiences
into written words
and to release those words with the world
so that others can share in my perception
of the mysteries of light.

There is an undeniable beauty
in perceiving
and in showing others what is perceived,
in understanding
and in making others understand.

The astronomer is doing no different
from me as a poet
or you as an observer;
we take in everything around us
and everything we already know
and make beauty from it,
whether in our own minds
or in the minds of others.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels


I adore Walt Whitman, and I really like “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”for its repetition, imagery, and even its call to enjoy the stars, but I disagree with some of its implications. Learning about something in a lecture or reading about something in a book can be beautiful and wonderful, just as much as experiencing that thing first-hand can be.

Growing up, I felt very much like an outsider to both the analytical and creative worlds, dipping my toes into both but never fully belonging in either. It seemed like those things were often presented as a dichotomy–that the scientific and the fanciful were depicted almost as a binary with the hard sciences existing on one side and fictitious writings existing on the other. I was very much a right-brained kid raised in a left-brained bubble (a concept that has itself been debunked by science, but can be helpful in describing the world nonetheless), and I had no concept for how to express what felt like an inherent trait of mine while honoring my upbringing.

I don’t know enough about a lot of things to integrate my scientific and poetic understandings of them, but I have now seen examples where it is done beautifully. This poem by Prasanta called “Love is Chaos,” comes to mind in particular. The poem makes a love language out of scientific jargon. It makes mystery out of the discovered. There is still so much enigma and artistry within scientific fields, just waiting to be poeticized. That was not my role for this poem, but that doesn’t mean it will never be my role.

And who knows, maybe my role will one day change to solely be a relayer of scientific facts, and if that does happen, there will be a beauty and a poetry in that.

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A Rainbow

Yet, the gorgeous light
still cascades down like a waterfall,
its spectrum of hues bright, intense,
undeniable.

I was taught that a rainbow
was a promise,
a secret message
to tell us
that the Universe
will never again flood our land–
will never again cause us to drown.

Sometimes it feels like that promise
has been broken,
that we are all drowning
in hatred and fear and chaos.
It feels as if the heavens
have not heard our pleas for absolution,
for peace.

Yet, the gorgeous light
still cascades down like a waterfall,
its spectrum of hues bright, intense,
undeniable.
I wonder if we have misinterpreted its meaning.

Maybe the rainbow is a reminder to move forward,
to empathize, to unlearn bad information,
and to fill ourselves with better knowledge.
Maybe the rainbow is a reminder to never do harm
to one another with our words and our actions.
Maybe the rainbow is a reminder
to set our gaze and our focus
on light,
even as it streams
through lingering droplets of rain.


Photo by Raine Nectar on Pexels.com

This poem was inspired by Photo Challenge #319 from MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie.

I found this wonderful article about white privilege and racial microaggressions written by Lori Lakin Hutcherson. Check it out if you want to read about Hutcherson’s experiences and learn more about these issues.