Phoebus in Night Air, Chicagoland

Todd Jackson

In Your Honor

Today it came down such that the gray rainwater had a silver gleam to it, like curved metal.
The street’s black asphalt was swallowed up under swirling gray water.
The street was just a broad shape in that water, stretched east-west between obscure trapezoidal outlines made by the tips of the grass.
The street was made broader by the width of both sidewalks, both flooded under, the gray water risen above their helpless gutters.
We were all in with the animals, calmer than they, but concerned about the windows.
Rain blasted the roof. It made a thrilling roar.
It had been a storm that afterward had me tuning in the Weather to see what had been destroyed,
And indeed three trees had blown down just on this street,
Two of these, crashed on houses.
I’d forgotten about the trees.
At the corner, at the new house, both an ambulance and a fire-truck are parked in the driveway.
Now it is afterward, and the air is stopped with humidity.
Now it is One AM in Chicagoland, middle-time America, near the center of the four-spread hand of the American hours.
The rain blast has scared the mosquitoes clear out of the night, and there are fireflies here grounded on the concrete, as if dying.
The tall young trees bend down their branches, springing with leaves, flush upon the roof.
The air is humid to where it seems a particulate gray-black mist. It is night.
A couple yards forward is a low stone wall, describing the limit of this concrete backyard court where I sit and smoke,
And beyond it, the backyard proper, several trees, and both the grass and the black tree bark are glutted with rain.
And well behind the stone wall, the fence, straight wood posts nailed tight together along two crossing beams.
Night, but suburban night;
it is not, then, the utter western blackness of One AM in the hours west of Chicagoland’s hour,
the blackness of the cornfields, and of the open desert.
Rather, the suburban night, the great bright Chicago just past the horizon, as if its spires might still prick up above the arc of the Earth.
Their brilliance, huddling west of the black Lake, defying nightfall just as surely as their sheer ascent defies the gravity of the Earth.
Even here, almost an hour south, there are the burglar lights of neighbors’ houses, and the piercing white headlights of a passing car.
It is not nature. It is the legacy of human brilliance against nature. It is the straightness of the human back.
This light is collectively faint,
but it has been as if cider-pressed through the mist,
and it has blossomed out into the black night like a bright blood cloud spreading beneath a surface of water,
and so this blackness is electric lit, alert and gleaming.
And more.
I can just make out an uncertain greenness in the gray leaves that lean down above. It is a green so dim that it seems imagined.
This light is Apollo.
Apollo is all sublimed inside this suburban night.
A gold river of light flows through a break in the trees. It is almost tactile, a plasma, its source is Sunlight off the cloud-shrouded Moon.
Its riverbanks, marking the river from the night, are sharply lined.
Light flows over the stone wall and spills down into the wet concrete court, pooling.
This light is aeons older than humankind, first hatched aeons past in the heart of the Sun. It is old, like rock is old.
In the night mist this old mighty light is mixed through and through with the electric lit skyline of Chicago, hatched in the human mind,
And He, being either;
I have learned
That to see these lights as One light
Is to glimpse the shining off His arrows,
Invincible as the break of morning.

 

 

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