Richard Burns

On the Qualities of Light in the Balkans


Between skin and core of apple
lies the secret. And in the taste of grape
before its flesh is broken. At the shore
of daylight pounded by waves of evening
darts the unseen arrow. And here,
on the slope of last light, its point
lies embedded in doorframe and windowframe
as if honed on a whetstone above the clouds
to pierce directly down through silver rivers of sky.

In the window, engraved, the reflection of a face
I have not seen before, glances back familiarly.
It is neither yours nor mine. It is neither
living nor dead. It corresponds to neither zone.
It belongs alone to this light it is intimately part of.
and the smile on this face - which is more
and less than a smile, being human and heavenly -
belongs to a white angel, with darkening, blue tipped wings.

Entry is not so difficult, although always unexpected.
Here is a blue butterfly, arrested on your finger
at the gate to the site of a massacre. Here is a spider's web
dewflecked in a morning garden. And here
a hint of incense suspended among dust
in a deserted building. Its silence is a song
launched on the space between separated trays
of candles lit for the living and the dead.
And here, the frayed hem lingering just around a shadow
that penetrates into it across the porous borders
drilled into time by ancestors and survivors.

And here, after all is said, is the certain chime of light
between eye and eye, as glass rings against glass,
So take this wine and drink it. And, there, outside,
under the shadow of the half ruined fortress
where we stood one evening beside a windless river
between a pearly moon and its hollow reflection
is the poor death of stillness broken by nothing more
than a pebble skimmed across water by a casual boy.


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