Winter 1996 • Vol. XVIII No. 1 Orpheus. Descending.January 1, 1996 |

This Third Light

Skin of green-black glint, mosaic wings: this housefly, old beyond hope or exhausted from how many stabs at the glass, performs slow death on my sill in a stumble of splintered light.   Should I explain that the glass above him is, technically speaking, a liquid, flowing immeasurably slowly? Technically, then, he could swim to the light. The dying believe   what they need. But it's true in a way, all of us buttering breakfast muffins, rethinking our lives, removing our shoes, inside these magician's boxes, through which blades are passing. Most days   we prefer to believe we're at risk from forces immense and so unswerving, this fly in his death-dance and I are equally at a loss to name them, both of us brought up against   an intractable light—like truth or fission— and dying of what we may both imagine to be—exactly—a failed flight. Why trouble ourselves over technical truths: we are fire; we are dust;   we are not, after all, much or for lon

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Marjorie Stelmach is the author of three books of poems, most recently Bent Upon Light (Tampa, 2009). She served, until her recent retirement, as the director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis.

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