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Wednesday 10 February 2010

Starlight and Shadow


The problems that you have are exactly what you need, said my friend, standing under the cold winter starlight, speaking of his own life, and I did not understand him.

I stand apart from yet do not wish to stand apart from what I do not understand. All those things that are on the other side.

I send things across to the other side on the understanding no one may be there and in the hope someone will be there.

I take nothing for granted and am grateful when something comes across from the other side and am never tempted to take anything that comes for granted.

I want the light never to be differentiated from the not-light and I understand that what I want has nothing to do with what is going to happen.

Tonight I hobbled out to do physical therapy downtown. The block where the place is located is the worst block in a town noted for its violence. I always limp in fear as I approach. Tonight there were sirens, flashing lights and cops running around in the street as I turned the corner to that block. Police cars were roaring up, slamming on brakes, policemen jumping out with weapons. Voices on loudspeakers, paramedics. Ambulances, fire trucks. As I hurried along I passed a glass front office building that should have been closed. Inside police were constraining a young man who was bleeding profusely from his face and body. I noticed that the street was slick with what I had thought to be puddles left by the heavy rains. In the bright lights from the police headlights, however, I now saw that the puddles were dark red pools of blood.

I don't know if I can remember the way things were before I began to remember how things are and I understand that I do not understand this.

(Here in the shadow.)

Star forming in the LH 95 region of the Large Magellanic Cloud: Hubble Space Telescope image, c. 2006 (ESA/Hubble)



Thank you for this, what a poem to come upon just now, in this different world I'm looking out at, hearing birds chirping in, waking up to bright waning moon in blackness of sky in (now clouded over as next front moves in) -- thoughts of "the other side". . . . Here, also hoping someone there ("on the other side") is something. . . .


first grey light in sky above black plane
of ridge, white of moon through branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

to point out subject matter,
so arrive at constant

space, way of working thing
floating in space, so

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
sunlit green canyon of ridge across it

Anonymous said...

standing under
the light
of the starfield
i understand the reason
why we only wish on one star
a night

shadow dark and shadow stark
first shadow i see makes me mark

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Joe Hutchison sent me here to meditate on this, so I have to thank the both of you for a piece of writing that defies understanding.

TC said...


Thank you very much for the bracing reminder of a sensory reality that exists on "the other side".

By now I get a clear proprioceptive orientation, as if in one of those pilot trainer modules, of the space your sequence creates.

("In the mind," I should say, though first thought to say, "In the world.")

Just gratefully to repeat, though I've probably already repeated it, the diurnal aspect of your provision comes as a great relief from such infernal nocturnal urban force fields of danger and adrenalized fear as are represented in the narrative part of this post. (I'm too old for this.)

TC said...


I'm in one of those phases where it's impossible to understand the reason of or for practically anything.

TC said...


Thank you for coming.

My defiance of understanding may be the result of the fact understanding defies me.

(Only a fool would take pride in this.)


Thanks so much Tom, nice to think "in the world" might be possible (as well as "in the mind"). One keeps going, or tries to -- what else to do?

awyn said...

Thanks to Joe H. for sending me here. I keep going back to that line about consciously not differentiating the light from the not-light. Opens up a whole new door of perception I hadn't considered in quite those terms before. Thanks.

TC said...

Hi Annie,

Thanks very much for stopping in. I had a pleasant time at your place(s) earlier.

It may be we have some nocturnal friends in common.

About the not-quite-differentiated light, there was a sort of micro-blink in that back to this.

ACravan said...

Oh, just thank you. This was great, very fine, resonant and meant a lot to both of us, more than we can say. We sent Starlight and Shadow to an old friend, a former Berkeley resident, who lives in India now, and she felt the same way. Greetings from freezing, icy, sort of grim at the moment, Philadelphia. Could certainly be worse. Curtis and Caroline Roberts

. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TC said...

Curtis and Caroline,

Thank you very much. Someone said to me tonight, "There's some bad psychic weather going around." I think he meant something over and above the West Coast rain and the East Coast snow.


Yes, I know the feeling. That lump. Moving up from the chest into the throat.

~otto~ said...

Oh what a picture, what a story. One of my favorites, Tom. I am Google Buzzing this, and Reader sharing it and social networking it and all kinds of Internet stuff.

TC said...


The lump is now moving up toward the brain. Uh-oh.

Melissa said...

That lump/light hit my brain moments ago when I read this/reminding me of the unwritable

and reminding me of my own defiance of understanding

Melissa said...

I've invited a friend, Brent Smith, to your words. I know you would think highly of him.

Brent Smith said...

Accepting the invitation and staying. Thank you, Melissa S.

TC said...


I am always happy when you come, it is always night (for me) and you always bring your intense particular light.

Well, the best I can say for not ever understanding is that at least it seems better than forever misunderstanding. (For a moment there I perceived a difference between those two states, but now that I seek for it, I am afraid it eludes me.)

Yes, the unwritable and the unsayable, how they do lead us on to keep trying to write things and to say things.

Until we stop.

And then it's probably always too late.

If you're me.

(What am I saying!?)

TC said...


A friend of Melissa's instantly becomes a friend here.

You will be welcome forever, or at least until next Wednesday.

Mishari said...

Wonderfully wrought stuff, always.

Makes me ashamed of being the light-weight footler that I am...

parallax said...

My dear paler-than-me,

on mishari's blog you posted: 'A close call (blood on my shoes, but a least it wasn’t mine). But definitely a shock to the nervous system.'

I wish I could've replied on the same thread but sadly Politely Homicidal has disengaged my IP address for being disrespectful to the fan-base (and by default to the mishari-fan meister).

Tom, you lead me to this section of your blog with: 'I take nothing for granted and am grateful when something comes across from the other side and am never tempted to take anything that comes for granted'

MrBeyond - I fear I may encounter yet another rebuff and potential closed doors by saying: 'How many first person singulars do you encounter in writing?' I'd suggest too many ... that's not to say you're rightly pissed-off with not wanting your life to be how it is, but can you write in the third person for a change? It might be different, more powerful - and I'd prefer to read it. I'd still know that that third person was you.

Be some-one else, in your writing at least.

cheers, parallax

TC said...


Many thanks.

You are too modest.

The world quakes, at times, beneath your light tread.

And this is perhaps as it should be.

TC said...


One is delighted to renew your acquaintance.

One oft composes in the third person. One will scurry off to try to find an example, in a bit.

However in the present instance, as the document is a bit of verité reporting, and as the subject would have had a difficult time disguising itself in any case... oh well, you get the picture.

(By the by, there is a certain American blogger which refers to itself as "Moi". Takes all kinds, & c.)

TC said...


For example, this.

Christine Young said...

I think I understand what you are saying. But then again, maybe I do not. In any event, you have made me think of something else. It’s what I cannot see that I know is there. Or is it just that I hope it’s there. And will I try to understand it if it shows itself to me…or will I fear it. It’s a spiritual entity I look for. “I know you’re up there, where the blue sky ends and the stars begin, in these daylight hours, and behind the moon at night.” That is my UFO poem.

Tom,I am thoroughly enjoying your blog.

TC said...


Many thanks again.

Yes, I think your interpretation is fair enough. Like me, you have perhaps wandered beyond the border of the daylight world of prose into the night domain of poetry, with this.

Christine Young said...

It's a very short poem, and at one time I wanted to add more, but then felt it was fine the way it was. I wish I knew more about poetry. I couldn't even say what type mine are. I just write what I think sounds good.