Afterimage—Sarah Kennedy

The dead, the gentle dead—who knows?—
In tungsten filaments abide. (Pale Fire)

They say that the souls 
of the dead we have loved
find their way home 
by the lights we leave out.

I lit up the house 
with the blaze of your loss,
white and silent as a winter afternoon.

No marshlight this, no burning reed 
nor wisp of tallow; no dancing flame
nor candle-glow, but strong and constant
as the wire snare that laps the throat.

I wait for you, warding sleep,
your cheeks lucent and your gaze dark,
trailing icy finials of night. 
I yearned for the caught breath 
and the locked eye,
the singular rapture of recognition. 

Did you appear, drawn blindly
by waves of incandescent 
brightness? Are you shadow or outline, 
Stranded on the farther shore?

Tungsten casts a cold light,
And the empty phonograph offers no voices
in its ragged dispersals of sound.
There is no vision gorgeous enough to trap you

No diode ever made to catch the crystal of your voice,
but only this ghost at the back of my eye,
A radiant fiction such as
we must gift ourselves in sleep.

Sarah Kennedy is a writer and critic based in the UK. Her work is grounded in the deep magics of ecological process, in myth, metaphor, and metamorphosis. Her poetry and fiction is immersed in the landscapes of her native Australia, of Dartmoor, and of the north downs in Kent. She tweets @WildThymeUnseen.

photo by Devon MacKay (via unsplash)