Night – by Beth Walker

after reading Thoreau

Henry David, you should see these stars.
Who would have thought a porch swing could be
the driver’s seat of the galaxy
but you? That hammering in your ears,
more like a pulse, a heartbeat,
marched you straight into jail 100 years
before MLK. What did you hear
between clanging bars and coughing convicts?
Always the singe of crickets at twilight?
A wellspring that gulped and blubbed
out of sight no matter how hard you looked,
splatting out a constant time in the night?
You knew your pond was the hub
of the universe. You made me glad I came
this far, though I never read that much of you.
You could grab a dozen pencils at a time
in hands that never felt a woman’s breast or hair.
(You were so shy and always making lists.)
I should think her hair’s most what you missed
in your shack on coal-oil lamp nights,
your phantom lover’s touch as sure and even
as the scratchings from the graphite you held,
humped over your make-shift desk,
fireflies and stars sole company.
Sometimes, you couldn’t tell which
were which, those switches of light.
Me? I never heard the stars sing like fireflies
until someone said: Look at the night sky.
It’s important.
And he wasn’t even a poet.
Well, you know the rest. They blinked in code,
the silent tom-tom of the heart, and I saw
the Milky Way like a bewitching streak of gray
dropping the full length of black
black hair down a woman’s back.
I’ve met your lady, Henry David.

Beth Walker is a professional writing consultant at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is a finalist in the 2020 Minerva Rising creative nonfiction Dare To Tell chapbook competition as well as a top ten finalist in the 2019 Ernest Hemingway Oak Park Foundation flash fiction competition. One of her poems also placed second in the 2019 Tiferet magazine poetry competition.

Statement by Featured Artist, Shelley Thomas: The shoreline, itself, is a glittering, crackling cosmos. It fizzles with insects like comets and sea glass slicked in saltwater glows in a sandy universe. The quiet magnitude of chaos dazzles; there is an ordered disorder to this universe. As I walk the stretch of beach, thoughts go to the subatomic level.
Art: “Firmament,” 2016 (Scarborough Bluffs, Canada)