Bio Note: A valuable aspect of anyone's writing life is reading and as co-editor of poetry for an online magazine, I read a lot of poetry. I read poetry submissions for our weekly posts and dozens for our annual contest. I invite you to take a read at Streetlightmag.com for its poetry and its other features: blogs, essays, short fiction, and its artwork.
Gaming the Dark
Lightning interrupts our earthly power: coffee maker, microwave cannot beep, beep their presence, message machine is wordless. Their lifelines dead, they obediently wait on kitchen counters. My fingers grabble jumbled drawers for candle stubs and matches to find the resurrection of self-reliance, to guide my wife down black-blind stairs. Like friends lost, despite listings in Alumni News, batteries of electronic devices drain in desperate social pleadings, in information searches. Signs of loneliness are easy to find: concrete steps of a burned down house, a metal folding chair abandoned in woods, or tobacco barns forlornly left in acres of soybeans. We find the resurrection of self-reliance in downsizing desires, our petty selves. Memories, like silverware grandchildren consider a burden, accumulate as do inventories of lint. In a semi-circle of candles arrayed on the table, we dump Scrabble squares and unfold the board to lay down the vocabulary of hours together, of the quiet place where darkness spells a different kind of light.
Ten years from new-born soft, it is dingy pink among chrome clips, plastic pens of desk clutter, but it still knows its duty—history impinging on the moment— it knows its skill to expunge the record. I write in pencil for its opportunity the way dust obliges the broom. In the rare beatitude of trust, can some indelible answer be found? And too often I want to retract my promises, to re-write what should have been. A new word betrays the momentary blank, the apology that smudges clean repentance.
My neighbor opens the door Saturday afternoons when he knows I’m in my woodshop trying to carve a living and he what-ifs for an hour or two— wants to argue about some war or other, out fact-checking my pacifism. He disproves accepted rules of thumb, debunks the wit of aphorism, tells me how to save time. He what-ifs as a complaint. Chances of winning the Mega-Millions jackpot are the same as knowing the what-ifs of birth, I comment. How can we live our suppositions? He means well, I suppose, but I edgeways a sly irony into his opinion; he smiles to misunderstand, ignores me. He’d like to see a future of when-ifs, a payout for life, still as brave as when he bought the ticket. I tease him out the door with where-fores, and try to recalculate the profit of loss.
©2023 Frederick Wilbur
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to say what it is about the poem you like. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL