Distance and a Certain Light
by May Swenson
and a certain light
makes anything artistic—
it doesn’t matter what.
From an airplane, all
that rigid splatter of the Bronx
becomes organic, logical
as web or beehive. Chunks
of decayed cars in junkyards,
garbage scows (nimble roaches
on the Harlem), herds of stalled
manure-yellow boxes on twisting reaches
of rails, are punched clean and sharp
as ingots in the ignition of the sun.
Rubbish becomes engaging shape—
you only have to get a bead on it,
the right light filling the corridor
of your view—a gob of spit
under a microscope, fastidious
in structure as a crystal. No contortion
without intention, and nothing ugly.
In any random, sprawling, decomposing thing
is the charming string
of its history—and what it will be next.
“Distance and a Certain Light” by May Swenson, from Collected Poems.