What Light Tastes Like

Depends on the hour of departure and if flowers
or fruits, maybe the lacy grapeyness of kudzu in early fall,
for all its artsiness a killjoy at heart.  I will rot
before I regret being driven from Gaylord Drive,
though I’ll  miss the calls from the first floor to announce—bluebirds,
red-tailed hawk, their ballooning in warm light that tasted oddly like ice.

To enter certain caves you must first
disinfect your feet to avoid contaminating the animals
painted on stone, often with their own blood and lost ingredients.
If I tried I could find the breathless bat I brought home from Italy
after sitting on its inconspicuous flatness in a gazebo overlooking a lake,
a shiny lake, where days earlier we’d kayaked with Michele
in light that tasted like the lips of a prophet who whispered
“Trust the glaze on the water,” his lips one pink up
from transparent.

Sometimes I suspect suspicion has the foretaste of death, a state
as starless as it gets, and once on a hunch
I searched the obits online to learn a friend–
not close, but dear–had gone.
The light of knowing was nothing like the light shining
from her crystalline poems and from her half-wolf dog,
who put his paws on my chest to stand above me
and bow his creamy head
to look down at me with longing.
His aquamarine gaze stole light
from the north, and I now see Vera and her dog, whose name
I’ve forgotten but whom I’ll call Olaf, riding a train, a long journey
to Siberia, Baikal, deepest of all lakes on earth,
making it the most seeingest of eyes, full of light
that tastes like the bread of the people here who cook with sour milk
and mimic bird calls and clucks.

Let Vera and Olaf spend all their days now, working with
water, water that has seen an incalculable number
of stars—Olaf lighting paths in the dark with his blue eyes and Vera
laughing her flinty laugh praising the sky and its clouds—while they kneel
to take half an infinity’s worth of lake to distill all the starlight it has held,
purifying it for endless time until it tastes like our first elements,
until it tastes like us.

 

 

 

Barbara Ras’s first collection of poems, Bite Every Sorrow, was chosen by C. K. Williams to receive the 1997 Walt Whitman Award. In 1999, Ras was named Georgia Poet of the Year. Her books include One Hidden Stuff andThe Last Skin. She is the editor of a collection of short fiction in translation, Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. She has been on the faculty of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Ras currently lives in San Antonio, where she is the Founding Director Emerita of Trinity University Press.

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