Featured Poem: Existing Light

By Madeline Defrees

A picture is worth a thousand words
of waiting. I thought I knew and waited
with the turn. The mirrors we were not
supposed to notice, circle my bedroom walls
to help me learn.

In the corner of my closet
where that other black self hangs
praying for a pumpkin coach to cart away
the ashes of a prince, something lost or
spirited below, wakes up and stretches
in the early autumn sun, to let a loose wind
trifle with the veil. Outside, the fevered leaves
repeat my fall in choruses more ancient
than my own, and underneath the stairs
a guttural parrot calls tired
obscenities to a woman who lives alone.

I studied my unknown face in every opaque
glass, searched for the lie I kept
bottled in. Then you shot
with a focused eye to get inside
the compromising skin. Wherever the light
touched my body it left a bruise.
The bruise deepened to shadow, and shadow
flowed into shape. I felt my bones bend
against the vast concrete. Muscles
tell me what they were for in a dark
beginning of hope. Deftly you planned the angles
to cancel out reflections from my glasses.
Your strategies were natural and sure.
Light from a used sun flooded the street
where I stood, half woman, half nun, exposed.
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