The Lovely light
by Kathleen Hoy Foley
We live deep in the Pine Barrens.
A land of sand, snakes
and flies so skilled
your arm’s swollen the size of a circus balloon before you even know you’ve been bit.
a place of lore and myth.
Where the bleached bones of not-so-wise guys
surface every now and again.
And the ghosts of runaways--
deemed imbeciles by the State--
roam the mists alongside the Jersey Devil.
Piney culture distrusts strangers and Democrats.
And anyone who would get in the way of jacking a deer.
This ground anchors forests.
Cradles pristine waters.
Welcomes hound dogs
especially BBs that pock art onto street signs.
a community grounded in agriculture
and pickup trucks.
But this is also a vast hinterland
of mystery drawn to its shadows.
And so it was.
In the bitter freeze of a February winter.
An hour or so before dawn.
Two old people staring out into the dark.
Trying to scare off insomnia.
There hanging high.
Suspended against the tar-pitch sky--
A pod. A craft. A Christmas tree from the Dollar Store, wonky side up.
Strung with half a strand of festive lights.
Quietly. Slowly. Methodically.
Wrapped in cold velvet.
Crawling down the night’s final curtain.
In a brilliant explosion of madness and adrenaline,
we’re thinking down parkas and flashlights
and a thorny dash through underbrush and pine needles
out to the derelict cranberry bogs
where the yellow-orange glow has descended
and is soft-lighting up the woodland behind our house--
an unwavering gleam of diffused amber light.
if your feet are frozen inside ice skates.
Our feet are frozen
to the oriental rug in our bedroom.
And we’re sweating
trying to decide what to wear
what kind of gear to take
to chase after a UFO
at this hour of the morning
in the middle of winter.
Hats? Scarves? Boots?
Camera? Do we even own a camera?
Sketch pad, then?
Forget the cell phone.
Is anything less useless in the backwoods?
Water. Remember the water bottles.
Tape measure—you can always use a good tape measure.
Two old people
sweating from disbelief and confusion.
Trying to figure things out.
Imagining the pilot.
Are we talking Cyclops here?
Eye sockets and a shrunken head?
What about the crew? There has to be a crew…
of lizard people?
Can a person actually die of fright?
Google would know.
Ask if two old people could be scared to death at the same time.
We better call the kids before we go out there…just in case.
Don’t mention human remains.
Half an hour passes.
The glow out back lost now into the rising morning.
We bug-eye stare from behind plate glass
as the pod/craft/wonky Christmas tree
floats silently over the treetops
creeping into the pink just streaking the sky.
Look at the size of that thing, one of us says.
Shit! is the reply.
Maybe we should wait until after breakfast to hike out there.
When the sun’s up and it’s not so damn cold.
We’ll eat first.
Then pack up the stuff.
And head out.
I have wash to do before we go, though.
While you’re doing that, I’ll take the van for an oil change.
Why don’t we go after lunch. Make an afternoon of it.
Well…what do you think about going tomorrow?
When we’re not so busy.
It’s supposed to snow tomorrow.
I think we ought to wait until the weekend.
It’ll be more relaxing.
Forget Saturday. Too many errands.
Let’s go on Sunday.
Yeah…Sunday…give us time to Google that death thing.
We’ll head out after bagels.
After we trim the cat’s nails.
As soon as we finish dusting and vacuuming…
We’re not going out there, are we?
Not a chance in hell.
But that light…
that was a lovely light.
Wasn’t that a lovely light?
It was. Such a lovely light.