Just Before Sunset in December
It must have something to do with the angle of the earth
as it turns away from the sun in late fall in New England
when just after four the temperature drops
and the light shoots straight from the hip of the horizon
striking maples, elms, birches and oaks
whose leaves curl up on the ground, dry and lifeless,
while the sun flashes yellow through the trees
as if to say, slow down, look both ways.
This must be what the Impressionists were after
afternoons in Brittany when the tide was out
and the long flat sand pinned the light in crystals,
the water a host of concave mirrors–
buoyant with the promise of art.
While here and now this stark luminosity,
coolly transparent, is oddly uplifting
as it streaks red across the sky
and singes the clouds orange.
Yeats said, in balance with this life, this death.
Maybe that’s why we are given this gift of light
or maybe we just see it that way
as a reason for pausing, however briefly,
grateful to be alive.