The Fourth River

Poem: “Light, Pinned and Singing,” by Jessica Reed

By on January 7, 2012

I am finally present. As Virginia said,
My eyes are hard
. Years ago now,
in optics lab, my partner’s strange
pronunciation of ‘frosted glass’.

We were looking at spectra then: glass-
shattered light lines. But I couldn’t focus.
Those radiant projections—just as dazzling
as their sources. The glisten of one borrowed

from the other. And elsewhere, gaseous auroras
both southern and strange. They’d been there
the whole time. Facts may not shimmer,
but they are star-like occasions for metaphor. Even

if I have to bend them a little. That white
celestial thought
. Virginia warned us
all: the light is fitful. White beams of winter,
wind compresses snow into hard

barricades. Shakespeare said fires singe
my white head!
In kitchen sinks and pressure
chambers, we manufacture fourteen shimmering
forms of ice. See, I believed Tom when he said

There is indeed some light in us. We seek
to explain it, lest our own fitful light dissipate,
star-like in its collapse, with each
photon no longer so startlingly distinct.

 

Virginia Woolf; Tom Andrews; the “white celestial thought” is Henry Vaughan.

 

Jessica Reed’s poetry and creative nonfiction explores connections between science and literature. She has an M.F.A. in poetry and a B.S. in physics. Her work has appeared in Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing, symmetry: dimensions of particle physics, and Maine in Print. She lives in Indiana.