Author’s note: “Money and Light” first appeared in GHLL 12, p 16; “Pythagoras Rests in a Clearing” GHLL 15, p 30; “Spider in Winter” was in volume 24, “Gecko” volume 14, p. 219 and “The Craft of Water and Light” in volume 32.
Money and Light
Clouds speak a language of light,
you told me,
translated easily enough
with a pair of cheap binoculars,
glasses of wine,
and a day off from work
on this windy porch,
rocking with the slow of forever
in 2:00’s quiet glow.
I couldn’t help thinking,
for this rundown hilly street
in the north and west of Catskill
where money always drifts south.
But today I did hear the speech of bulbous
wide tailed cumulus to wisps of cirrus.
You translated it with an odd perfection,
cloud-rolling basso profundo lilting
in your gentle high pitched hum.
And I saw the way the afternoon sun
flashed here and there, hieroglyphs of glow
softly staining embankments of puff,
moisture’s muscle, intimate grays and whites,
the flesh and bone of fog and drizzle,
the only letters the sky ever writes.
Money melted to light.
Pythagoras Rests in a Clearing
This luminescence-dappled realm of breeze
displays geometry’s pervasiveness:
a clearing, circular, where he can rest,
and watch the way late sun’s caresses tease
a shadow language from the nearby trees;
fleet hieroglyphs of dusk whose forms impress
the rule of shape and angle on these woods.
The ever shifting shadow-shapes suggest
dark homage to the perfect circle’s rule.
And spirals of a gliding hawk agree
that basic shapes reveal creation’s truths.
Tranquility descends now on these woods,
as raptor vanishes into the west.
Such peacefulness is theorem, needs no proof.
Spider in Winter
Fierce patch of ice
ready to upend the bold, the meek,
the inebriated without distinction,
but no match for summer-in-March
that dazzles this slow afternoon.
We watch the love affair
of hard molecules with melt
and soon a midsized puddle
reflects the sun brightly.
From our porch in Catskill,
we’ve seen many a season
but none that changed more sharply
than this, in just three hours.
Temptation to step
on surviving ice
is too great to resist:
spiderwebbed cracks that ensue,
each fissure veined with glow
are mirrored in a real spider’s crawl
along the porch railing,
as if appeared from nowhere.
Cousin to our plodding thoughts—
fellow descendent of the sun—
and more recently of the trilobite
who first evolved the eyes
that we bask in the pleasure of using
this lightrippled, warm afternoon.
So molecules seem theoretical,
abstract conceits, small art of microscope,
maybe mirages like quarks, isotopes,
rule over thought by the conceptual.
But not so on the gecko’s tiny beat,
on which it climbs up walls so casually;
infinitesimal hairs on its blur-feet
can wrap round molecules relentlessly.
Three feet a second is its rate of climb,
of quickness crossing ceilings belly-up;
its doctorate in physics, straight from time—
vast, immemorial—that’s conjured up
such huge capacity for tread and flight
as to bring molecules almost in sight.
The Craft of Water and Light
It speaks a language for sure, this shallow stream
whose chief occupation appears to be
polishing stones so smoothly
they’re almost jewels.
You listen intently to tinkle and bubble,
a cacophony of dash and splash,
a wavering rhythm of sound and motion,
and couldn’t be more certain
the stream is talking to you.
But oh to know what the words mean!
Perhaps if you were a bird,
or sun ray or overhanging branch,
translation might come more easily.
The pale brown stones the stream polishes
shimmer gemlike when a burst of sun,
catches them full.
Perhaps the stream, an artisan,
is speaking of the gemlike beauty
its own craft of water and light
You listen and listen until this language
tells you to move on.
Lee Slonimsky’s latest US collection of poems is Bright Yellow Buzz from Spuyten Duyvil Press. His sonnets about Pythagoras have been translated from English into Greek, Italian, Polish and French.