Last night I attended a reading with the poets Vijay Seshadri and Rebecca Seiferle. I recommend the work of both of these poets, because of their mastery of language coupled with their unflinching observations of self and environment. Both of them produce work that is accessible yet complex. The following poem is one Rebecca Seiferle read, and can also be found on the Ploughshares site:
Fire in a Jar
Some plucked from flight by sweep of net
or grasp of hand, immediately darken
and flicker out. A drift of stars becomes
mere green beetles scraping the glass bottom
of a jar. Other kinds go on flashing, ardent
no matter how captive they are, lighting
up even the smallest heaven. And still
others make a haze of their own longing,
dispersing themselves into a diffuse haze,
becoming a drop of sexual sunlight falling
upon the transparent world. Glass eye,
glass heart, glass jar, in which we try and keep
our flickering selves, all the light in us is sexual,
a luminous persistence—a heaven or a hell.
Remember catching fireflies as a kid? Do kids still do that? They were magic to me when I was a little girl. I didn't know how they created that light, and I never thought to ask. I loved it.
The narrator in this poem observes the various ways caught fireflies respond. Some become "mere green beetles," others "go on flashing," and others "make a haze of their own longing." She compares the variations of this captive energy to human sexual energy, and observes that "we try and keep / our flickering selves" inside glass--to contain it, perhaps, to control it, to have it be seen and recognized but still protected. How we respond to our "caught" sexuality can create in us either "a heaven or a hell." Either way, this sexuality is an energy of light, an energy that insists on being seen and dealt with.