for Lauren, for Andrew
Inside the globe which is the sky
sits a small castle on a hill
with a pale lemon-colored roof
and tiny openings cut out
meant to be windows, painted black,
each curtained with an edge of white,
a touch, no more, a dot or two,
hung in the corner like fine lace,
lace you can almost picture moving
back and forth, gently, back and forth
in the breeze, should there be a breeze,
lace you hear rustle if you listen.
Except that it is winter now,
doors and windows are shut, shut tight:
the cold will be held out tonight
and the children kept safe, made warm.
From each window, behind white lace,
lamplight pours to the field below,
lamplight as bright as any sun,
even brighter, thick, rich, deep yellow.
The castle grounds lie still, lie white,
so much white beneath lemon roofs,
so much white mixed with yellow light,
it hurts to take such brightness in,
yet you keep coming back for more,
a second look, some new, small flame
which, the first time, you may have missed,
something, anything, that could blind you.
When you turn the globe upside down,
holding it kindly in your hand,
the weather changes all at once
and the child’s castle changes with it:
the white that made the field so still
is rising to the sky, now fills it
with the snow of a storm so blinding
it may take hours or days to settle.
When it stops, and you know it stops—
so deep a fall surely the children,
were they out in it, would be lost,
surely could not find their way back—,
you can tell ground apart from sky
only by the way the hand holds it,
turning it this way, that, until
the lemon roof has written on it
snow which will spell out LITTLE CASTLE
just above where the children sleep,
the scene once more at rest, or nearly,
the weather clear, or clearing, calm.
The lamps once more pour light, pour yellow;
the children, warm, turn, dream of snow.
Beneath the fall the field lies quiet.
The sky is up, the ground below.
When it stops, you go back to look,
taking in as much as you can.
It will hurt as much as before,
which is the way the eye would have it,
and the mind with it: to be blinded
again, again, each time one looks,
yet, with all this light, all this looking,
never, never, to have enough.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 8 Number 2, on page 41
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