"9 Light Poems" by Jackson Mac Low

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   *          9 LIGHT POEMS          *
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   *               by                *
   *                                 *
   *         JACKSON MAC LOW         *
   *                                 *



The light of a student-lamp
sapphire light
the light of a smoking-lamp

Light from the Magellanic Clouds
the light of a Nernst lamp
the light of a naphtha-lamp
light from meteorites

Evanescent light
the light of an electric lamp
extra light

Citrine light
kineographic light
the light of a Kitson lamp
kindly light

Ice light
altar light

The light of a spotlight
a sunbeam
solar light

Mustard-oil light
maroon light
the light of a magnesium flare
light from a meteor

Evanescent light
light from an electric lamp
an extra light

Light from a student-lamp
sapphire light
a shimmer
smoking-lamp light

Ordinary light
orgone lumination
light from a lamp burning olive oil
opal light

atom-bomb light
the light of an alcohol lamp
the light of a lamp burning anda-oil





Old light and owl-light
may be opal light
in the small
where old light
& the will-o'-the-wisp
make no announcement of waning

but with direct directions
& the winking light of the will-o'-the-wisp's accoutrements
& lilac light
a delightful phenomenon
a delightful phenomenon of lucence & lucidity needing no
even of lilac light
my present activities may be seen in the old light of my
as a project in owl-light


A bulky, space-suited figure
from the whole cloth of my present activities
with a taste for mythology in opal light
& such a manner

in the old light from some being outside

as if this being's old light cd have brought such a manner
to a bulky, space-suited figure
from the whole world of my present activities
at this time
when my grief gives owl-light
not an opal light
& not a very old light

old light nor owl-light
makes it have such a manner about it
tho opal light & old light & marsh light & moonlight
& that of the whole world
to which the light of meteors is marsh light
all light it
no it's
an emerald light
in the light form the eyes that are making it whole from
      the whole cloth
with no announcement this time.


What is extra light?
A delightful phenomenon.
A delightful phenomenon having no announcement?
No more than the emerald light has.
Is that the will-o'-the-wisp?
No, it's the waning light of my grief.
Is it a winking light?
No more than it is the will-o'-the-wisp.
Is it old light?
The oldest in the whole world.
Why do you speak in such a manner?
I suppose, because of the owl-light.
Is it a kind of opal light?
No, I said it was old light.
Is it a cold light?
More like a chemical light with the usual accoutrements.
Like the carmine light produced by my present activities?
More of a cold light than that.
Like what might fall on a bulky, space-suited figure?
Well, it's neither red light nor reflected light.
Are you making this up out of whole cloth?
No, I'm trying to give you direct directions.
For avoiding a bulky, space-suited figure?
No, for getting light from a rhodochrosite.

Note: A rhodochrosite is a vitreous rose-red or variously colored gem-stone having a hardness of 4.5 & a density of 3.8 and consisting of manganous carbonate (MnCO³) crystallized in the rhombohedral system.


This time I'm going to talk about red light.
First of all, it's not very much like emerald light.
Nevertheless, there's still some of it in Pittsburgh.
It adds to the light from eyes an extra light.
This is also true of emerald light.
But red light better suits those with a taste for mythology.
As reflected light it is often paler than the light from a
Such a red light might fall on a bulky, space-suited figure.
In just such a manner might this being be illuminated during
     a time gambol.




George Brecht
in a white light
sits on a white
wooden chair.

He wears a
white tee shirt
white cotton trousers
white socks &
white tennis

He throws white roses
from a white vase
into a white waste-
basket placed
at a challenging distance from the chair.

Around & between
George's chair
& the wastebasket
he has placed
sources of some kinds of light
& emblems of the possibility of others.

He continues throwing the roses into the wastebasket
until he misses.

Then he goes to the rose on the floor
& carefully draws a line on the
floor with
white chalk
from the bottom of the rose's stem
to the petals &
prolongs the line until he hits
or nears
a light source or emblem.

After pocketing the chalk
he retrieves the roses from the wastebasket
counts them out loud
& returns them & the one from the floor
to the vase.

He goes back to the white chair.

As he sits
the lights go out
for as many time-units
of his own choosing
as there had been roses
in the

Then George produces a light by means of the source
if the rose pointed to a light source
& if it pointed to an emblem
he makes the kind of light the emblem symbolizes visible.

This kind of light remains visible
for as many time-units
(either one's the same as those that measured the darkness
or different ones than those that measured the darkness)
as there had been roses in the wastebasket.

Among the kinds of light that might be seen now
might be
watch-light light
jump-spark igniter light
rays of light
cold light
naphtha-lamp light
noontide light
almandite light
enameling-lamp light
a nimbus
meteor light
Jack-o'-lantern light
water lights
jack-light light
refracted light
altar light
Corona-cluster light
magic lantern light
ice-sky light
clear grey light
natural light
infra-red light
Reichsanstalt's lamplight
Saturn light
sodium-vapor lamplight
cloud light
Coma-cluster light
alcohol lamplight
light of day &/or

One of these kinds of light might be seen now
some other kind of light.

After a short darkness
the white light goes on again
& George
on his white wooden chair
throws the white roses into the white wastebasket

Then he does what he does again
then more darkness
the kind of light
pointed to
by the rose on the floor
then George in a white light throwing roses
& so on
until he feels it beautiful to stop.




A useless plan proposed in acetylene light
to a cheery visitor
who carries a lamp that burns castanha-oil
adding its castanha-oil
to the acetylene
advancing ignition
the refusal of a loan
despite long working hours
stretching to the aurora
& an exchange of possessions
in winestones-oil
or a need for stressing modernization
&/or exploding starlight
are merely petty annoyances
but ether lamp light
an improvement of conditions
a useless plan
in acetylene light
& failing in
ghost light.




'In the middle of the road of our life'
the attention advances & ignites
the balance
& the intuitive light
alive in any baby
                          not mere lucence
           of places
                          & plants




Can the light of a dark lantern cause
word division?

Not when artificial light
enforces complementary distribution.

But in a vivid light
an adverb
may function as a call.

Wd that require a kind of incandescence?

Not in daylight.

Wd anda-oil suffice?

If the lamp were new enough.

But what might be the effect
of nova light?

It would be a modifier.

Wd it modify a word?

Perhaps a noun.

Wd a tantalum lamp do more?

More than an ignis fatuus wd.

Wd it ensure close juncture?

Noonlight wd do that better.

What about early light?

Its lucence might provide
a kind of punctuation.

Better than electric light?

Better than an azure exit light.

But what wd make for rising terminal juncture?

Only the light of noontide.

Then what wd opalescent light provide?

Rising terminal juncture.

In what focal area?

Any one
that might be reached
by rays of light.

Even if only by those
of a Berzelius lamp?

Even a transition area
lit by lightning.

Cd a verb be made inactive
by the aurora australis?

If falling terminal juncture intervened.

If light fell thru an iolite
what might it originate
by analogy?

Nothing in a nonlinguistic context.

Not even an ignis fatuus in starlight?

Not even a new verb.

Is light from an electric lamp
enough to do that?

Not even enough
for a novel noun-determiner.

What about an annealing lamp?

That sets my teeth on edge.

What about a night light?

That might.

Comparatively speaking?

That depends on the kind of word.

Wd a tungsten lamp do better?

If it cd affect articulation.

That needs illucidation.

Do it with a verb-phrase.

Cdn't I do it with a nova?

No, sir.



                               9 - 10 OCTOBER 1971

Let me choose the kinds of light
to light the passing of my friend
Paul Blackburn            a poet

A pale light like that of a winter dawn
or twilight
or phosphorescence

is not enough to guide him in his passing
but enough for us to see
shadowily his last gaunt figure

how he showed himself to us
last July in Michigan
when he made us think he was recovering

knowing the carcinoma
arrested in his esophagus
had already spread to his bones

How he led us on
I spent so little time with him
thinking he'd be with us now

Amber light of regret
stains my memories of our days
at the poetry festival in Allendale Michigan

How many times I hurried elsewhere
rather than spending time with him
in his room 3 doors from me

I will regret it the rest of my life
I must learn to live
with the regret

dwelling on the moments
Paul & I shared
in July as in years before

tho amber light dim to umber
& I can hardly see
his brave emaciated face

I see Paul standing in the umber light
cast on his existence
by his knowing that his death was fast approaching

Lightning blasts the guilty dream
& I see him
reading in the little auditorium

& hear him
confidently reading
careful of his timing

anxious not to take
more than his share of reading time
filling our hearts with rejoicing

seeing him alive
doing the work he was here for
seemingly among us now

I for one was fooled
thinking he was winning the battle
so I wept that night for joy

As I embraced him after he read
I shook with relief & love
I was so happy to hear you read again

If there were a kind of black light
that suddenly cd reveal to us
each other's inwardness

what wd I have seen that night
as I embraced you
with tears of joy

I keep remembering the bolt of lightning
that slashed the sky at twilight
over the Gulf of St. Lawrence

& turned an enchanted walk with Bici
following Angus Willie's Brook
thru mossy woods nearly to its mouth

to a boot-filling scramble up thru thorn bush & spruce tangle
Beatrice guided me & I was safe
at the end of August on Cape Breton Island

but when Jerry telephoned me of your death
the lightning that destroyed
the illusion you were safe

led thru dreadful amber light
not to friendly car light
& welcoming kitchen light

but to black light of absence
not ultraviolet light
revealing hidden colors

but revelatory light that is no light
the unending light of the realization
that no light will ever light your bodily presence again

Now your poems' light is all
the unending light of your presence
in the living light of your voice

                                                              12:33 AM Sun 10 Oct 1971
                                                                                         The Bronx



             4:50-6:18 A.M. SAT 1 JAN. 1972


As a mad scientist
Buster lights a Bunsen-burner flame
that starts a series of processes
that eventually releases The Monster

As an Undertaker
Buster lights a Bunsen-burner flame
that starts a series of processes
that awakens a drunk who was about to be buried as a corpse

As a Muscovite
Buster lights a sisal wick in a sesame-seed-oil lamp
that suddenly lights a mystical orgy
officiated over by Rasputin

As a boater
Buster beats a cascade by floating out beyond its edge
borne by a balloon
lit by a wintry sun

As an Unwilling Passenger on a Drifting Liner
Buster the Millionaire & his rich Girl Friend
learn to cope Alone Without Servants
when forced to rely on the light of their Upper-Class Intellects

As a Worker
Buster arouses the Compassion of the Nation
in whose light the Corporations
sell themselves to their Workers

As a Key Man
Buster carries around with him
an enormous bunch of keys
lighting the way with a Keats lamp

As a Beatnik
Buster meditates in a Redwood forest
seated where the Selenic light
first falls at Moonrise

As a Leaf-&-Feather Gatherer
Buster Means Well but bugs everyone in the Park
spearing the ladies' hats & the picnickers' salads
in featureless Hollywood Light of the century's first quarter

As William Butler Yeats
Buster addresses an irate Irish crowd
that thinks that Poetry makes Nothing Happen
but lets itself be bathed by its Truthful Light

As a Cannoneer
Buster explodes his own ship's magazine
treads water in Gunpowder Light at a safe distance
& blushes in embarrassment at his Clumsiness

As a Violinist
Buster surpasses Paganini
until Boston-Concert-Hall Light
Poisons him with Love for a Proper Bostonian Maiden


Spirit of Buster Keaton
if you survive as yourself
receive Please our honor & praise
you conscientious Workman

Hard-working Buster Keaton
when you arouse the laughter of children
as you live in Projector Light
Your Karmic Residue dissolves in Joyous Shouts




I know when I've fallen in love       I start to write love songs
Love's actinism turns nineteens to words & thoughts in love songs
as your "A" & the date made "actinism" enter this love song

Also I seem to start dropping punctuation
My need for punctuation lessens     like some people's need for sleep
My need for sleep lessens too     but later I fall on my face
Lack of punctuation doesn't catch up with me like lack of sleep
It doesn't make me fall on my face

So bright the near noon light   the toy photometer twirls   in
the sunlight slanting in from southeast thru the southwest window
the stronger the light the faster the light motor turns
diamond vanes' black sides absorb   white sides radiate photons
See it go

A "42" draws the northern lights into the song
as yesterday into the Taggart Light Poem twice they were drawn
as "aurora borealis" & "aurora"   by "A"'s & by numbers
There they seemed eery & threatening   Here they seem hopeful
as they seemed when last I saw them   over the Gulf of St. Lawrence
cold euphoric after making love wondering
at swirling curtains & sudden billows lighting the sky northwest

I remember their evanescent light as neutral or bluish white
I remember the possibility of yellow the improbability of red
not like Bearsville's rose & blood sky twenty-five years before
Now these memories mingled with pictures' descriptions'
project on inward skies idiosyncratic northern lights
that only exist while I'm writing these lines for Anne
Even the next time I read them the lights they arouse will be different

Nineteen sheds a tranquil light on our love song thru your "T"
Our love's tranquil light revealed by 19 & by T
is turned by 15 to an aureole tipping an "A"
The "A" becomes your face The aureole grows

Relucence from my face glows back on yours

A telephone bell can deflect & dissipate my light
The deflected light is lost to poem & person
I turn my telephone off these days to help ordinary light breed poems

The sun is so bright on my desk now   except on the typewriter keys
that there's no need for the light of the student lamp placed to
      shine on the paper

But now       five hours later       the lamp's       the only light
& I begin the poem's       "astrological"       section


Acetylene light may be what Virgo needs to see the "pattern
except that for him this is something" he will
only acknowledge if it can be seen in natural light

Can we gain new light from astrology that ubiquitous superstition
You Sagittarius Woman     Me Virgo Man
What "can happen between them is a" mazing
a dizzying     a stupefying or dazing     a crazing
a great perplexing     bewildering     amazing
forming a maze of something or making it intricate
being bewildered     wandering as in a maze
What has happened between them is amazing

What is happening between us is amazing
more intense & vivid than electric arc light     tremendous light
brighter than acetylene light friendly as reading lamp light

"But a young Sagit-
tarian need have no qualms about taking on a
man considerably her senior if he is a "Virgo"
Rand's random digits underline our case
in this lovely silly optimistic sentence

We've been living     I think     in a kind of drowning light

"He reaches the age of forty At anything less than that age
he is not even a possible for a Sagittarius"
Me Virgo Man You Sagittarius Woman
Orgone radiation flimmers between us
our curious safety light

"What can happen between them is superb
Something he has spent half his life dreaming about
At last it has come true" O ingratiating
astrological light may you never prove false
even to one who has often decried you as no light
but superstitious darkness natural light would dispel
or the electric arc light of empirical science

The way I'm writing this poem's like using
trichromatic artificial radiance
not as decorative light     in place of
ordinary solar radiation     as you photographers do

Before I was forty "not even a possible for a Sagittarius"
now I'm sixteen over the line & safe with you

"Her     but a young Sagittarian need have" none    
     "qualms" have no basis
Are we dreaming     Is this Virgo Man still dreaming
as "he has spent half his life"     they say     "dreaming"
"Sagittarian & Virgo"
"The pattern is perfect"
The poem is over

                                                   19-20 March 1979
                                                                New York




from 22 LIGHT POEMS, Black Sparrow Press
Copyright © 1968 by Jackson Mac Low
Copyright © 1986 by Jackson Mac Low

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