If it is real the white
light from this lamp, real
the writing hand, are they
real, the eyes looking at what I write?
From one word to the other
what I say vanishes.
I know that I am alive,
between two parentheses.
~Octavio Paz, from Selected Poems (©1984 by Eliot Weinberger)
It's been so dark lately. I wanted big light today. Fierce light. Shouting, screaming, raging light. Light with claws, barbed teeth and a tail of burs. But today's light won't fight like that. Today's light plays demure, like a child who won't perform on demand. Oh, come on now, what's wrong? You know how to do this, you just did it the other day. Show us what you can do, don't be shy. (Baby blushes with a big-dimpled grin.)
Upstairs, in my room (the only room in the house that hasn't been finished, never mind re-finished), which faces east into the morning sun, I'm writing, trying to make sense of a certain citrus-scented light that has left this planet. Marks—the parentheses—of this fruity light are set with dates on both sides of the dash. My good friend Sheila: born and died in March. I don't imagine, though, that she is gone.
Death is the only certainty, we are told. It should be of no surprise, especially when we're prepared—as if we can prepare—yet, we're surprised. Events following take on a surreal aura. Death cannot be real. It's a trick. Smoke and mirrors. Like the Botanica print hanging on the wall above my desk that appears, in the picture, to be a mirror. The things reflected: an old yarn winder topped with magazines and an enormous, inherited, "Authorized or King James Version" of The Holy Bible. The Bible has so many bookmarks and notes tucked within its pages that it's nearly twice its original size and its spine is reinforced by duct tape.
Honey-haired Sheila was all light, as refreshing as orange essence; her zest for life, her insistence upon positivity, palatable. You could scrape her sideways and she'd smile. An orange spritz. Effervescence. A concentration of sweet and light. Peacemaker. Where there was darkness, she brought light. Orange glow.
Yellowed paper clippings are taped to the backside of the Bible's cover. I hadn't given the big book much attention, but one clipping strikes me—a passage from Olive Moore's Collected Writings:
Be careful with hatred. Handle hatred with respect. Hatred is too noble an emotion to be frittered away in little personal animosities. Whereas love is of itself a reward and an object worth striving for, personal hatred has no triumphs that are not trivial, secondary and human. Therefore love as foolishly as you may. But hate only after long and ardent deliberation. Hatred is a passion requiring one hundred times the energy of love. Keep it for a cause, not an individual. Keep it for intolerance, injustice, stupidity. For hatred is the strength of the sensitive. Its power and its greatness depend on the selflessness of its use.The sun, now, is willing itself to be present, and in the hall where it shines through the picture window it concentrates on the center of the rug, but it doesn't appear too concerned. It spreads across the tapestry, carefully, until the hall is fully infused with warmth. Ah yes, now it's thrashing and there's not a shadow to be seen! I think of Sheila's energy. She loved foolishly. Wildly. Generously. She still does. I feel her here now. Here. In the orange glow. Not gone at all. No sense to be made. I can smell the oranges and see her blushing. For this, I am certain.