The topic for this issue is light. Light, at least for me in this essay, is related to seeing, or vision. So here goes!
My son and I have always loved to watch the moon. We are excited when we hear about an upcoming appearance of an unusual or celebrated moon like the recent “harvest moon” or a “blue moon.” But any moon, in any stage, full, crescent, half, et cetera, is worthy of our notice and admiration. When my son was younger (about two or three), he would gleefully announce “moon!” whenever he spotted one, even in the middle of the day when its light, partially eclipsed by the sun, was almost invisible. I was able to see what he saw only when I stopped scanning the sky and glanced elsewhere–at a car, at a tree, or whatever. Then the moon would appear, as if by magic, in my peripheral vision, or, as physician and writer Lewis Thomas would have said, “out of the corner of the eye.”
Now that my son is entering his dreadful teens, his moon enthusiasm is muted; but we can still coax him outside to admire an especially bright moon or one that eclipses the sun. He has become more cynical about many things, including stories about the effects of moonlight on emotions or tales about what a particular moon might prognosticate. He tells me that the SUN provides the light, not the other way around, but I still find the light of the moon to be magical, even if I have to see it out of the corner of my eye.
I wrote a poem a couple of decades ago when I was experiencing a bout of diplopia (double vision), a fairly common and annoying symptom of multiple sclerosis. During the exacerbation, I realized that the fractured, ghosted images I “saw” were no longer wed neatly to their corresponding physical entities. At the time, I was teaching English at a university, and among the frustrating consequences of my diplopia was the annoying and headache-inducing struggle to identify and make eye contact with the “real” physical students instead of their “phantom” doubles.
At some point during my struggle, I remembered a book I had read in graduate school, written by Stanley Fish, entitled Is There a Text In This Class? In the book, Fish describes teaching a particular English Lit class during which he wrote random words on a chalkboard before students arrived. He then watched as his students, conditioned as they were to “interpret” poetry in that particular setting, began immediately to analyze what they didn’t know was a “fake” poem. From what I remember about the book, the students actually came up with a plausible “interpretation” of the random words. I was thinking of Fish’s book when I wrote my poem.
I used to think seeing meant a game
like scanning rhymes
in one of Stanley Fish’s fake poems
how my student Freddie thought Emily
Dickinson was trying to find a man
if only she could have
everything would have been all
But now I think
it’s how your eyes move
when I look at you
and how the walls and floors
are dislodged without me
ever feeling or knowing.
– Anna Lott (1994)
Peace and good wishes,
Anna grew up in Alabama, spending her entire childhood in the same house where her parents still live today. Anna is a retired Professor of English and Women’s Studies from the University of North Alabama, where she charmed her loyal and adoring students for almost twenty years until a bad MS exacerbation convinced her that she should start spending her days playing games on her iPad, reading and writing whatever and whenever she feels like it, and watching the birds feed outside her window.