fiat lux

Fiat Lux

Static from the radio stippled grey as anesthesia dream,
band after band of voices,
the luminous bar of speedometer, column shift. Cruising,
the long battered car fogged in whiskey
breath, the sumptuous trash, canvas scraps, pasteled
bills of lading. Father and daughter—

and over them blue spruce laden with snow arcing the white
mentioned avenue of robber barons’
palaces, the steamship magnates and celebrities, the city’s
skyline gothamed electric
across the horizon. Small hands on the pane wick the chill
until I’m icy pure flame,

outside the big houses, streets unwinding below like a tulle scarf
from a woman’s shoulders
to the damp wooden houses huddled in their steam,
the marshes’
smoking blackness beyond. Swallow the moon like a coin,
an ivory poker chip polished

for luck, driving fast past the opera singer’s house, his name
like nervous laughter, that
music blown to shards, arias of ice, and always the city’s
dragon-back silhouette, someplace
a child might never get to. Fiat lux, the windows’

glow, buttery and old.
The city’s become a figure for the way you’ve learned to love
what’s distant, fantastic,
an abyss of space between. One of those returning things, skeins
of planetary days, lunar phases,
solar years turning harmonies celestial in the blood. One’s

never done with the past.
Close your eyes. The laden winter night, hill tumbling downs
and beneath the burning meadows’
spreading stain, the runaway’s smoking train through roots, the blind
white worms and rat swarms
underneath the mercury-colored river. I always loved stories

that began that way: the elaborate entry
to the city of cast-iron garlands and window displays intricate
as a universe with shining cogs
and wheels, a world where night reversed to day, and towering Women
waterfalled their Dynel tresses
in the shelter of marquees, boas spitting plumage in the faces

of nightwaiters.
Yes, the gilded birds, plunder in the turrets. And the pulse,
the mission, secret formulas
discovered all around me, the daughter swept in her black serge
dust-bin coat, tangled in foxtails,
glass eyes, shoplifter’s pockets sewn inside stuffed with broken trinkets,

cancelled stamps from Peru and Mozambique.
Fingers tracing the skyline through the windshield of that battered car:
mere fiat lux, tricks,
delusions of sleek verb, the lustrous nouns. How to imagine
those places where chaos
holds sway, the old night where you hear scared laughter pierce

the anesthesia dream, song
of shoulders pushed rough to alley walls, torn caress, dark dress,
song that goes
I’ll do it for 10, for 5, I’ll do it, burnt spoon twisted in the pocket.
Don’t tell her. Child stroking
the frosted pane, galactic, impervious and caught in this endless

coming to be that’s endlessly undone
the long car’s weaving tracks blurred quickly in the snow beneath
the laden shelter of trees,
my father’s whiskied breath as we drove like thieves through skeins
of planetary nights, air rich
with signals, the arias and perfect boundless schemes where
the city floated
distant and celestial, brutal in its own rung music.

   - Lynda Hull