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Light Calling to Other Light Robert Vivian Lately, I have started to push a wide, yeUow candle into sunlight, inching it forward on the coffee table at certain times of day. I move it forward to capture the Ught and to hold it for awhüe. Then its entire fat body glows from within in a rich, meUow flame, like an improbable, headless Buddha who is dining on the universe. Aglow on the table, it is a homage to Ught for Ught's sake, things that glow, things that carry fire. It never fails to astonish me. And this same candle, which is squatty and weU-abused, thick enough to lap your knee, could burn for a long, long time, though my wife and I rarely deign to light it; rather it is just one of those quirky, suddenly avaüable props that announces "Here I am" and occupies your mind for awhile. I move it into sunlight inches at a time because by late afternoon, the tallow is warm and bright to your hand: it glows Uke certain grandmothers , or beneficent old men. Then girth becomes a virtue; you wish it were thicker, fatter, more encompassing of sun, wider than the circumference of a saucer. So one day I discovered its true virtue, and have been its devoted slave ever since. Prostrate, a little shabby and banged about at the rim, the outer edges of the Buddha candle create a daytime aura the nimbus ofwhich is good enough to chew on. And maybe these bodies, these things, are necessary at a certain point— the point at which one notices different kinds oflight and starts to want to see them and to touch them, if only for metaphysical rehef. It's an important moment, for where are we going ifnot down some tube ofUght much bigger than ourselves? Who do we think we are without these self-same Ughts, these burning rituals and chants ofbrightness? I think the buds of aU living things contain fire, but this is difficult to prove. There's no test to run other than gravity, time, and the nature of circling bodies. But the Buddha candle has taught me I am much smaUer than a pin or needle, and I have to keep my eyes open for aU manners of Ught. Because light is a changing 56 Robert Vivian57 color, and death is a snuffing out into darkness—and the two, in my simple mind, move in counterpoint to the stars, and the stars are aU we know of destiny, and offate. And so I have started to coUect tiny scraps of light. I have been coUecting them, I realize now, aU of my life. I put them in an imaginary bag the size of a smaU yard that, when closed before I go to sleep, coUapses to a hand-held pouch. I put the stars ofnew snow in that bag, glistening Uke bits of glass or diamonds; dawns over the Platte River, the water keen at the knife's edge where it meets the sun; I put my wife's hazel-brown eyes in it, too, especiaUy at dusk when the earth comes out in aU its richness, wood smoke mixed with moss over the impossibly green bog and tangle of summer branches. Then I'm a woebegone sucker, staring at the auroras ofother places, holding on to what I know not. I also coUect the transparent wings of smaU birds, hummingbirds whirring at a feeder, coloring the air behind them in the delicate, purple lattice of a bruise; waving grass offthe highway that shines in early afternoon (it does shine if the wind is right); the perfect rib cage ofVenetian bUnds in early morning which hardly bends at aU but cuts down into the nadir of things; the sun again through branches of the gingko tree, wüd hair of the weeping mistress, bands ofwinter cirrus above them, anything that fits in the bag and expands it. I coUect these scraps of light for a reason I do not know or understand. I cannot define it. But I think it has something to do with hope, or a need to hold onto something...


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