Nancy Ingogly, 1949 – 1997
What were we here for, who were these
filing into stadium rows where dim ghosts
of fireworks filled September air with heat,
here in the bleachers where grownups
had brought us, we begged Cokes, popcorn,
as some kind of music played above us,
grownups joking or talking about things;
we thought the whole town was coming:
family, friends, people we didn’t know; we asked
why we were there, what was it they were talking
about, who else we knew was there too and sun
struck our eyes so we couldn’t see over there but
no one knew anything so after a while we fell
silent as nighthawks shredded the upper air.
Then, in the last days of September, with the heat
around us and the world we knew around us thick
as a cemetery or the lobby of a strange theatre one
second before a show would start, the light fail-
ing so any light (the end of a lit cigarette say), blazed
in the flat pastels and umber of the last moments
of sunlight, myself six years old, sister three, decades
before the failure of her body ruined her for dancing:
our mother and father, our grandparents still alive:
the last light made fire of dust against the green-black
trees and the children of unknown families bore lanterns
big as treehouses through the stadium, so everyone
laughed and clapped but none of us knew why, or how
the children made them, who they were or where
the pictures drawn across the glowing parchment came
from: aren’t they pretty the grownups said as the
children walked in solemn parade around the assembly,
eyes fixed on the backs of the children before them,
until all of them held up their burdens of light at the center
of the stadium, and somebody won some kind of prize:
which didn’t explain the faces of the children, why
they had spent so much of themselves on lanterns
for that one solemn night: to this day I don’t know who,
or why, or what, and by now anyone who could have answered
these questions is gone.
At the heart of a wilderness of branches,
the dark gate to an unknown season.
We might have been explorers
setting out, or sailors terrified
in storms on winedark seas
between the rock of one year and the next.
We closed our eyes almost, and watched
the light smear out to fill the whole known world.
Nights, we’d bundle in the car and cruise
the streets in search of lights, lights
as though there weren’t enough at home, seats
rocking as we traversed wastes of frozen snow,
lights blazing, filling the inside of the car:
look at that, and that, until our eyes bled
light, and our hearts, and closing our eyes
almost, we watched the light smear out to fill
the empty places here, and here, silences
and hidden fear, closed doors and opened
hearts and Christmas night in church,
a blaze of wax light filling sated eyes until
suddenly, the waves over our heads, treading
water in secret joy, we drowned in joy
welcoming the Christ child with small measures
of hope, then out to the absolute cold of one A.M.,
the sky full of brilliant created stars beyond counting
before the water covered our heads the third and final time.
Out of the deeps we’ve been brought here,
myself seven, brother one, sister four, her
dress blazing white in the created light
streaming down from an immense sky,
blue, blue with small clouds swelling
and tumbling, hieroglyphs of grace,
all of us there and alive at least for then,
beached in the merciless light
of a country of uncreated light,
mother and father, grandparents, others:
the church a dank crypt after all that light,
dark limestone and hosts of guttering candles,
seraphim and cherubim, o holy holy Lord of hosts.
We sang of sweet light and meadows, of Christ
stepping from the tomb, life jittering back into his
torn limbs, of quantum improbabilities, breath
fogging the chthonic air as he worked his way back
from Sheol, darkness then that uncreated light
filling the tomb, we sang to each other, don’t die
(that old lie), father dead twenty years later, his
parents four years before him, mother twenty years
later still, and who knows about the rest of us.
Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts, heaven and
earth are filled with your glory.
And then home, and things to eat, games, betrayal.
In the back of the back yard, where we found those
small blue flowers no one knew the name of, just
pushing through the litter of winter, leaf upon leaf,
smaller and smaller back to the unseen primordia:
reaching up to the warmth, and the promise of light,
come, come see, light warm on the back of our heads,
and for just then at least, every one of us there.
Copyright © 2021 Vasily Ingogly. All Rights Reserved.