Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Of Light and Cheese

Of Light and Cheese
Photograph via Flickr by Andrew McFarlane
To Anne

A friend wanted to know my voice,
my true voice,
but I had nothing to say

other than that beauty
often overwhelms me,
breaks me,
because I can’t control it,
can’t hold it
long enough to know it,
to splay it full
on a page in some book.

Like the other night
I was driving back from Costco
with a shitload of cheese in the trunk:
sliced cheddar, Monterey Jack,
cream cheese, Parmesan.
Of course there were other groceries,
but the cheesiness is important, see.
Truth be told, I’m a cheesy guy
who falls in love with everything.
Like the twilit sky I saw
over the dark mountains—
its beauty hit me
like a sheet of glass.
I thought of acrylic paints first,
the way the light was streaked
in cobalt blue, teals, aquamarine.
Then I realized there had to be more
bleeding of color, moody water colors,
the thinnest wash of pink where sun lingered
on the mauve clouds, almost hot pink.
But as this pinkness slowly reddened
into something stark as blood,
I thought of an oil slick,
the way its iridescent sheen
glimmers over dark asphalt.
Yes, maybe the sky was an oil slick,
but shit, there was something else, too,
much closer to where I started,
something lapidary, of cut stone and polished
strata, mother-of-pearl, almost like the inside
of a jawbreaker, but I forgot.

In bed that same night
I was thinking of what slouches towards Bethlehem
because it’s one of my favorite lines,
but really nothing slouches towards Bethlehem
because it’s just a figure of speech.
The only thing real in life
is what the light shows us
rising from our beds every morning,
what we discover every day
hurrying away from the dark.
I see a desk, a lamp, a window.
A fridge in the kitchen
that won’t stop chattering.
A crusty can of cream cheese.
A gob inside so soft and sweet
I’ll use to furnish my toast.

There was this other day
in November
that was perfect.
If the Costco sky were a sheet of glass
breaking over my head,
this day was a glass decanter
I wanted to pick up and hold—
the kind of clarity that cuts through bullshit,
that rings the cock like a bell,
that makes me regret my years
numb in metaphysics
skullfucking dead Greeks to spill their secrets,
and of course the Renaissance, the Enlightenment,
the Modernism we could never disavow
because it made ourselves important,
became the apotheosis of our loneliness.
But something Romantic in me never died,
and that’s what I had
this perfect day in November
when I had taken my family to the park
on the edge of our neighborhood
and saw the desert mountains
catching the light pink
an hour before sundown.
Storm clouds in the east
made ribbons of shadow and light
on the foothills scrubby with juniper
and pinyon pine.
In the canyons between the hills
the shadows were shifting,
thrumming like the wings of a hummingbird,
like a memory you can feel beating
way down in the folds of your brain
but for whatever reason can’t recall—

Like the fading pulse of love…

I could have written pages
about this park,
the way things stood in the light
without complaint:
the green slide, the black swing,
the soft crush of a footprint
in the red dirt of a baseball diamond.
The light strafed them all.
I breathed the refractions, the colors.
I don’t know what else my voice is
but some human angle in the falling light