“Light chaff and falling leaves or a pair of feathers”
on the ground can spook a horse who won’t flinch when faced
with a backhoe or a pack of Harleys. I call it “horse
ophthalmology,” because it is a different kind of system—
not celestial, necessarily, but vision in which the small,
the wispy, the lightly lifted or stirring threads of existence
excite more fear than louder and larger bodies do. It’s Matthew
who said that the light of the body is the eye, and that if
the eye is healthy the whole body will be full of light. Maybe
in this case “light” can also mean “lightness.” With my eyes of
corrupted and corruptible flesh I’m afraid I see mostly darkness
by which I mean heaviness. How great is that darkness? Not
as great as the inner weightlessness of horses whose eyes perceive,
correctly I believe, the threat of annihilation in every windblown
dust mote of malignant life. All these years I’ve been watching
out warily in obvious places (in bars, in wars, in night cities and
nightmares, on furious seas). Yet what’s been trying to destroy
me has lain hidden inside friendly-seeming breezes, behind
soft music, beneath the carpet of small things one can barely see.
The eye is also a lamp, says Matthew, a giver of light, bestower
of incandescent honey, which I will pour more cautiously
over the courses I travel from now on. What’s that whisper?
Just the delicate sweeping away of somebody’s life.
—Poetry, Oct 2012
Gail Wronsky is the author of ten books of poetry, prose, and translations, including ‘So Quick Bright Things’ (What Books, 2010), ‘Poems for Infidels’ (Red Hen Press, 2004), and ‘Dying for Beauty’ (Copper Canyon Press, 2000).