Parting Glances: Emily’s Ribbon At a Time …

By |2018-10-10T14:11:14-04:00October 10th, 2018|Opinions, Parting Glances|

The 19th Century poet Emily Dickinson wrote over 1,800 poems in her five-decade life. In one of these exceptional, divinatory and uniquely insightful, poems she spoke of “a certain slant of light.”
She found this sunlight “oppressive as cathedral tunes.” Only a poet of her one-of-a-kind sensitivity, born of her New England solitary existence — her friends and companions were select and very few — could make the comparison. Cathedral tunes.
Oppressive for Emily, perhaps in this instance, but in another poem she speaks awesomely, joyfully, happily, “I’ll tell you how the sun arose: a ribbon at a time.”
As a longtime admirer of Emily Dickinson I have memorized many of her poems. Her comment on light made me — born 50 years after her untimely death — recently to think of several times in my long life I too have found sunlight, sunshine and sky radiance of such to memorably punctuate my own earthly stay.
However briefly. However much in passing. However now and then. Sunlight is the daily citadel of souls. Yours and mine.
Cathedral tunes. Dark days — and there are so many of late, thanks to the cosmic political overcasting of cloud gloomers Trump, Pence, day-drooping McConnell, abuse-mongering Kavanaugh — provide no positive emotional nexus for me — or we LGBTQS — to respond to. Their vision is constant, threateningly overcast. A horizon of storms.
But, when the sun shines for me, say about 3:30 or 4 p.m. in the summer or fall afternoon, I have an automatic, inner, touching, almost visceral, unfailing response.
Its message is urging, ingrained in me as a boy, automatic as a questioning teenager, and if-only-I-could-do-it-again, now as an adult in aging memory.
Look up … hurry home, Charles Robert Alexander, Jr.! It’s your dinner time! Your seat in the family’s small, 444 Peterboro apartment kitchen awaits you. Dinner with your mom, your father, your grandmother. Roast chicken. Corn bread. A slice or two of granny’s pumpkin pie.
Comfort. Security. Shared voices. So long silenced. But never forgotten. One by one I can still hear my family speaking … Buzz. Bobby. Granny’s Old Bubba. The one-on-one names they call me.
And here’s this recent sunshine nexus that happened to me so vividly that for several moments it seemed incredibly real. I’m driving with my artist friend Jon Strand in his, now-outdated blue Volkswagen Beetle.
Seated between us is Jon’s highly intelligent black lab Otie, who now and then buddy-buddy rubs affectionately against me. We’re driving to Otie’s Vet’s Office in Birmingham.
The sunlight surrounding our drive, brightly lighting up well-manicured, turning leaves trees, quiet homes, the smooth, well-paved streets — it affects its radiant magic. And it surely must radiate to Jon and Otie. We’re a congenial threesome.
However briefly, however totally improbable the feeling — laughingly so perhaps — I am once more feeling I’m 30! Happy. Content. Adventuresome. Glad to be gay. Out. My promising life yet still ahead of me. Challenging, but rewarding.
Yes. The sunlit induced experience is magic, even though it’s only mental, wagtail hocus pocus. (Thanks to Emily’s Sunlight for letting me remember.)
Another brief Dickinson poem aptly sums things up for me and so many of us these troubling days, “Had I not seen the Sun/ I could have borne the shade/ But Light a newer Wilderness/ My Wilderness has made.”
Let us always learn to resist the shade. The Cathedral tunes of political oppression. Let us always look for the inner and outer light of our LGBTQ being. (And surely see more than a rainbow ribbon at a time.)

About the Author:

Charles Alexander